Convicted of corruption, DiMasi fights for right to lobby

Sal DiMasi

 

BOSTON – Former Speaker Sal DiMasi, seeking to resurrect his career on Beacon Hill after serving prison time for corruption, has appealed Secretary of State William Galvin's denial of his application to register as a lobbyist.

Galvin's office rejected DiMasi's lobbyist registration application in late March, according to documents shared with the News Service. Galvin's chief legal counsel Laurie Flynn wrote that DiMasi was convicted in federal court for conduct that is also in violation of state ethics laws and lobbying laws.

DiMasi appealed four weeks later, calling it his "constitutional right" to lobby and contributing to a flurry of communications between him and the state lobbying division.

The Boston Globe first reported Galvin's denial of DiMasi's lobbying application on Wednesday evening. A pre-hearing conference before the lobbying division has been set for June 13 at 2 p.m.

DiMasi stepped down as speaker in January 2009 and was convicted in 2011 for his role in a scheme to steer almost $18 million in state contracts to the Burlington software company Cognos in exchange for $65,000 in kickbacks concealed as payments from his law associate.

His eight-year prison sentence was cut short in 2016 when he was granted compassionate release to battle multiple cancers, which has since gone into remission.

"Lobbying is a constitutional right. Now that I have paid the severe price for my convictions, I want to do what I know best: advocating for the things I believe in," DiMasi wrote in a letter requesting an appeal hearing.

DiMasi acknowledged that the 2009 ethics and lobbying reforms made at the state level were a direct reaction to his federal case, but said the final law limited the secretary of state's authority to disqualify someone seeking to register as a lobbyist to someone convicted of a felony in violation of Massachusetts general law.

DiMasi said the Ethics Reform Task Force heard specific arguments at that time on disqualifying someone from lobbying who had been convicted of any felony, but the Legislature and governor opted against that path.

"The Secretary participated in the law making process, and like the lawmakers and the public, was well aware of the federal prosecutions against us. The law that was enacted does not include any federal statutes as a basis of disqualification," DiMasi wrote to Flynn.

The former North End Democrat, who now lives in Melrose, is being represented in his appeal by Meredith Fierro, an attorney with the Boston law firm Cosgrove, Eisenberg and Kiley.

DiMasi, 73, served 30 years in the House of Representatives, representing Boston's North End and other neighborhoods from 1979 until 2009, including over four years as speaker. He was succeeded by his former aide and current House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz.