Sunday, March 01, 2009

Chuck Turner's Strident Adventure

Chuck Turner keeps teaching us, but likely not the lesson he shouts with such volume and repetition. The big lessons will come with the dénouement.

Charged in a corruption sting, accused of extorting a bribe from a businessman seeking a liquor license, Turner has attacked relentlessly.

His campaign of PR and rallies casts him as the wronged hero, a singular champion of the downtrodden beset by racist, classist bigots. He is the pure one, he would have it, while U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan is the villain. He wants charges dropped and Sullivan destroyed for prosecuting him.

Not only does that make for great theater, and rallying cries for the faithful, but he has a slight chance of sliding out punishment for his pretty obvious misdeeds. Sullivan has a much stronger case against the accustomed-to-plea-bargaining Dianne Wilkerson in the same sting operation. In her usual clumsy and arrogant way, the disgraced ex-State Senator surely will plea yet again or pack up her toothbrush for federal prison.

In contrast, Turner seemed an afterthought. Oh, as long as we nab one corrupt pol, let's go for a pair, appears the reasoning. Turner's obvious acceptance of cash on video is not as definitive. While that should not have inspired Turner to claim he is both a the African-American hero in Boston, it does give him the possibility of pretending taking money was both a one-time event and also confused for a campaign contribution. As Wilkerson had previously proven, it's not hard to game the campaign-finance system, pay a fine and keep on keeping on.

Meanwhile, he has staged an undercard, the right to defame the prosecution for its handling of the case. Sullivan must be a hard nose himself. He has gone to court in response, claiming he can parcel out accusations against Turner while forbidding him from revealing any exculpating details.

Turner's bluster plays well in Dorchester, where many see him as politically righteous. In what he has grandiloquently begun calling my Campaign for Truth, Light, and Justice, the city councilor tries to remove himself from what we ordinary humans think of as honesty and integrity.

Turner seemed an afterthought

It may come to his admitting that okay, just maybe he took $1,000, but it was certainly not a bribe in his mind, just a faithful voter who happens to be a businessman looking for a booze license. If Sullivan doesn't have additional witnesses and audio or video, his sloppiness could let Turner skip with minor penalties.

Neither accused nor accuser seems candid and both are obnoxiously cocksure. I for one would rather the resolution was a simplistic and straightforward as Turner presents it. He'd be the champion of the oppressed and those who accuse him are the bad guys.

Unfortunately, it's not that binary. Turner clearly has made a career in Boston government of advocating for the poor, particularly his core African-American voters. He has been one of the strongest councilors in constituent service.

Yet, we are looking the flipped log in the forest. The bugs scatter in the light. Both in the State House and City Hall, we have too many proven cases of petty and large corruption. His saying, "Trust me," does not carry that much weight. We've heard it too many times from others who proved untrustworthy.

Most unfortunately for Turner, corruption prosecutions aren't offsetting. You don't get a stay-out-of-court card for doing good deeds for voters.

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Quriltai said...

I'm unclear as regards the supportchuckturner website. There is a section for a donation, but I can't see where it goes. It's an all-volunteer site with no affiliation to Turner, yet the title on the donate site is "re-Elect Chuck Turner". I just wonder how that money is being spent...

massmarrier said...

Fair question.

They say the money goes to his defense and is not tax deductible. Thus, a donation appears to be a political statement only.

Yet, considering that Turner admits he may have been sloppy accounting for contributions, he should have set up a separate bucket for these at the very least. Having these donations coming in as checks to the Committee to Elect Chuck Turner" doesn't sound too smart. It's likely that they credit-card is the campaign one as well. Not smart.