The Boston squeeze

Earlier this month a federal jury found two Boston city hall officials guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion after prosecutors proved that they told a concert promoter that unless it hired members of a union that had supported Mayor Marty Walsh, it wouldn’t get a permit for its event. [Jerome Campbell, WBUR, AP/CBS Boston, earlier here, here, here]

So far, so Boston. Even more characteristic of the city’s political culture: ten Boston city councilors put out a statement decrying the verdict. The really perfect touch? “Some 70 nonprofit organizations, representing environmental, LGBTQ, housing, senior, education, and civil rights advocates,” have also denounced the verdict, claiming that it interferes with “democracy.”

Veteran Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi calls it “bizarre” for these groups to “condon[e] threats from city officials as an acceptable standard for doing business in Boston”:

Supporters of Brissette and Sullivan argue that the case criminalizes advocacy. Suggesting that concert organizers hire union help might qualify as simple advocacy. But organizers of the Boston Calling concert were basically told there would be no permit unless they hired union labor. That’s wrong, and Brissette and Sullivan knew it. Joe Rull, the city’s former chief of operations, who testified under a grant of immunity, told the court that when Brissette wanted to employ that hardball tactic during a previous disagreement concerning the use of nonunion production workers he told him, “You can’t do that, it’s not legal.”

More from Josh McCabe:


  • Obviously, the cheerleading for thuggery is truly appalling. But what it signifies is that the rule of law is really starting to fray. It is clear that the state has no interest in dealing with this problem, and the victim only got a modicum of justice due to the happenstance of federal intervention and a jury willing to follow the law.

    In a way, those who are complaining about the interference with democracy are correct. Elected officials want to run Boston this way. There’s a wink and a nod. But anyone who has dealt with big-city bureaucracy will attest to the not so hidden thuggishness that underlies your dealing with them.

    The question I ask, of course, is what are the remedies of those abused in such a manner who do not get justice? Ultimately, when government operates on power untethered to law, it becomes a mafia,

    If it were up to me, the two officials would spend the rest of their lives in prison.

  • Why is this bizarre? The pols expect their kickbacks and the various special interest groups expect to get a piece of the pie, or at least the leadership does.

    It would be bizarre if it were otherwise.