Last evening, Chuck Tuner was one of his two selves on BNN-TV's Talk of the Neighborhoods. He left the outraged, illogical Chuck somewhere and showed with the let-me-teach-you-how-to-think one.
The City Councilor has claimed since his arrest on extortion and lying to the FBI charges last Friday that he can't talk, details at least. Of course, we all know he cannot not talk. That's his skill, his craft, his need, his style.
It worked pretty well. While saying again that he can't telegraph his defense, he telegraphed his defense. He makes a lot of stuff up and he tortures reality mightily, but he is so charming, so open and seems so sincere doing it.
Not There Note: BNN doesn't seem to put its archives up. Its sibling NNN at BU offers selective ones, plus Chris Lovett's excellent blog. Nothing appears yet, but if Turner's segment does, I'll link to it here.
The short of it is that I can see the possibility that the feds rushed this and that Turner has a shot at either walking or converting this to the old campaign-finance violation routine. If you don't mind a slightly disturbing image, consider that he might tap dance away.
He was on the show about a half hour yesterday and had no problem finally stating that he was innocent of the charges. His denial included:
- He and his staff see lots of folk, but don't recall businessman Ron Wilburn, the cooperating witness.
- If (a word Turner used many times) Wilburn was in his office as the tapes show, his appearance was a cameo, fleeting as Turner said, also several times.
- If Wilburn did really slip him $1,000 and there's no corresponding tape proving Turner inspired that money transfer, it wasn't extortion, no quid pro quo.
- If Turner took $1,000 from Wilburn, the worst you could call it would be a campaign-finance violation, not a crime.
Our own Andy of Mayberry.Individuals can't contribute more than $500 a year to a candidate. Plus each contribution of $50 or more must be specified with the Office of Campaign Finance. It looks like he'd have until either December 3 or January 20th to include an August contribution, depending on how it would be classified.
Seeing ex-Senator Dianne Wilkerson's bungled contributions and filings in the press and her subsequent plea bargain with commonwealth AG Martha Coakley, we all know the drill. Over $500, return the excess. Agree not to misfile or skip filings. Pay a fine. Present a plan for compliance. Coakley's a law enforcement officer the way Andy Taylor of Mayberry was.
For his part, Turner made it clear to host Joe Heisler that he expected the same from Coakley, if things are as they seem, that he took $1,000 from that guy. He was jovial, but still in the prove-the-crime or get-out-of-my-face mode. He was convincing.
On the other hand, Heisler was fawning and not only with Turner. He had two other guests on for a few minutes at the end, minister and activist Bruce Wall and South End quasi-politician Kevin McCrea. Heisler defined all guests as old friends and busted no chops. He assumed integrity among those before him. It was bar stool reportage.
However, he kept coming around eventually to the unanswered question of the evening, is the city system per se corrupt. The horse that McCrea rides when he tries (so far unsuccessfully) to become a Council himself is corruption. The idea includes that short election cycles require constant fund raising for campaigns and that the closed-door-deals culture at local and state levels encourages exchange of favors or money for favors.
We have a damned good idea of how Turner will defend himself at a probable cause hearing, scheduled at the federal (Moakley) courthouse for December 10th. Unless the FBI has more goodies in its bag, he may (again forgive the image) skip out of the building.
To the larger issue of how you keep politicians clean, that's less clear. McCrae and Wall are among the many pushing for open meetings, particularly any that deal with such lucrative arrangements as liquor licenses or construction projects. Put the public in public hearing and public meeting.
We could also use an AG with some guts and crusading attitude (Teddy Roosevelt comes to mind). Coakley isn't one of those and the last guy, Tom Reilly, wasn't either.
Tags: massmarrier, Boston, Chuck Turner, Heisler, BNN, corruption, City Council