Tierney v. Tisei: Time to focus on the issues by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Last Tuesday, Congressman John Tierney did what he should have done many months ago.  He held a press conference and faced questions about what he knew and when he knew it regarding his brother-in-laws’ illegal activities.  For Tierney, there were no new revelations.  Too bad he waited until he was backed against a wall by the two sleazy felons who call John’s wife, Patrice, their sister.

Just last week, the Eremian brothers charged that, despite the absence of any evidence against Tierney, the Congressman knew all along about their illegal gambling activities. This from, on the one hand, a convicted felon en route to prison, until then proclaiming his innocence, and, on the other hand, from a convicted felon who is also a fugitive from justice.   The brothers claim, of course, that Tierney knew because he visited twice in Antigua, in 1999 and 2009.  But  the federal court, supervising his probation,  had approved Robert’s taking a computer job in Antigua where the online gambling industry is legal. And, if Tierney suspected any illegality, why on earth would he have travelled to visit in-laws there?  He’s not a stupid man!

The question then comes on whether he knew that Patrice was doing anything questionable in handling Robert Eremian’s personal payments here, including his three teenage children’s living expenses, care of their aging mother and her brother’s income taxes.  (She also received some money from Robert as “a gift.” John Tierney says he “got nothing.” ) Patrice says she had taken brother Robert’s word that the money she was handling came from legal sales commissions.  There has never been any evidence that the Congressman knew what his wife had turned a blind eye to, aiding and abetting the brother’s filing false tax returns, behavior for which she pled guilty two years ago. (The judge said Tierney “was not implicated in any way, shape or form.” )

Republican challenger Richard Tisei seems to be relishing this smarmy  situation. (It virtually covers the home page of his website.)  But this is not a road he should be travelling on. He had a taste of his own family problems when a sister was arrested for possession of cocaine.  How long had her behavior been going on? Had Tisei turned a blind eye to her situation? These are not questions we should be asking. Tisei has not been linked to her crime and says he has been unaware of her illegal activity.

Enough  of bad relatives!  If voters in the sixth district can successfully pivot from the salaciously personal to focus on the substance of the race, they will have a clear choice between two quite different views of government.

Tierney has become a highly regarded member of the Democratic Study Group in Congress, is distinguished by his steadfast support of a strong middle class agenda, especially in education, job creation and human services.  He supported the stimulus package and didn’t think it went far enough to help the recovery. He is a staunch advocate of necessary infrastructure work as a job creator. He was among the early advocates of getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  For 16 years, he supported gay adoption and gay marriage.

Tisei, who is openly gay, is a gun advocate who gets top ratings from the Gun Owners Action League. A Charlie-Baker-type Massachusetts Republican, he is a much more credible candidate than was fire-breathing extremist Bill Hudak, Tierney’s opponent in 2010.  He has stood for cutting spending and opposing taxes while still doing enough for the elderly, children and the disabled to warrant past recognition from groups advocating for those constituencies.

Now his emphasis is decidedly on cutting taxes, spending and regulation, in tune with the national GOP. To his credit Tisei has refused to sign on to Grover Norquist’s rigid anti-tax pledge, but he has spoken favorably about the Ryan budget plan and has received financial support from Paul Ryan.

National Republicans obviously think there is blood on the water and that Tisei stands a  chance of unseating Tierney. They are opening their wallets and providing advice.

Though Tisei voted for Romneycare,  like Romney himself he now vehemently opposes the Affordable Care Act and, even after the Supreme Court has ruled,  calls for its repeal.  To compound matters, despite having voted pro-choice in the legislature,  he supported the Blunt amendment, which would have made it difficult for poor women to get contraceptive prescriptions. How much of  Speaker Boehner’s obstructionist agenda would become his own is a matter of concern.

The Globe’s coverage and editorial scrutiny of this race bears watching. From time to time, the paper has been known to decide it’s time for someone to go, for whatever reason, and this race may be a case in point.  It’s not just a question of endorsement but how the candidates are covered and where articles are placed in the paper.

Tierney was reelected in 2010 after his wife pled guilty. The only difference now is the last minute charge from the brothers-in-law that he knew about illegality, and they are highly questionable sources to say the least. In the end, voters will have to decide which of the candidates will better represent their interests and values in the 113th Congress, where every member’s vote could count.  Do voters want someone who will vote for the agenda of John Boehner or of Nancy Pelosi?   The hope is that they’ll decide only after carefully examining the substance of the race and determining who’s more likely to stand up for them.