Sen. Brian Joyce’s law office raided by FBI, IRS as probes widen
By State House News Service | February 17, 2016, 14:35 EDT
BOSTON – An investigation into state Sen. Brian Joyce has expanded beyond the Massachusetts Ethics Commission to the FBI and the IRS, as agents from the two federal agencies on Wednesday raided the Milton Democrat’s Canton law offices, officials said.
Joyce, who has been the subject of several media reports questioning his use of campaign funds and influence as a state politician to benefit his legal practice, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and last month entered a settlement to resolve questions raised by state campaign finance officials.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service were “conducting court-authorized activity” at Joyce’s Canton law offices, an FBI spokeswoman in Boston said Wednesday, declining to comment further due to the ongoing nature of the probes.
Republican groups swiftly called for Joyce’s immediate resignation, while Gov. Charlie Baker said the investigation should be allowed to “go wherever it goes.”
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat who in May of last year removed Joyce from two leadership posts pending the conclusion of an ethics investigation requested on Joyce’s behalf, issued only a short statement in response to Wednesday’s escalation.
“The Senate will of course be fully cooperative with any and all requests from law enforcement. We will wait until the authorities have completed their investigation before commenting further,” spokesman Pete Wilson said in a statement.
Meanwhile, MassGOP Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes ratcheted up the pressure on Joyce, calling for him to resign “immediately” in light of the federal raid and “a series of troubling corruption reports.”
“Joyce’s remarkable disregard for the law is a byproduct of the Democratic culture of corruption on Beacon Hill, where abuse of power appears to be a fringe benefit. The presence of such corrupt Democratic lawmakers is exactly why Senate President Rosenberg is wrong to want to weaken state ethics rules,” Hughes said in a statement, referencing past comments made by Rosenberg about the undue scrutiny put on public officials.
Baker, a Republican, initially issued a short statement expressing general “concern,” but later in the afternoon addressed the media where he called the federal probe “troubling,” but stopped short of calling on Joyce to resign.
“All of us in public life take the fact that we have to play by the rules seriously. I was troubled by some of the issues that were raised previously with respect to the senator’s relationship with some of the folks in his district, and obviously I’m not going to comment specifically on the investigation because I have no information on that. It will take its course and go wherever it goes,” Baker said.
Asked whether he agreed with his party’s call on Joyce to give up his Senate seat, Baker said, “Voters ultimately get to make the call with respect to whether someone’s allowed to continue to serve or not on election day, and I think that’s probably as it should be.”
He added, “I certainly support the Republican Party, but I tend to be careful when it comes to using terms like that, and in this particular case what I would say is that there’s an investigation underway. We should see where it goes.”
Joyce has a law office at 776 R Washington St. in Canton.
Howard Cooper, a lawyer for the lawmaker, issued a statement defending his client.
“It is unfortunate that recent stories in the media appear to have sparked an investigation,” Cooper said. “Senator Joyce has been cooperating with each inquiry that has taken place to date resulting from those stories and believes that he has done absolutely nothing wrong,” he said in the statement.
Staff members in Joyce’s State House office referred all questions to the Goodwin Group.
In January, the Boston Globe reported allegations from a Randolph dry cleaner who said Joyce had taken advantage for years of an offer for free dry cleaning. Baker was among those who called for an ethics investigation into the allegations.
Joyce called the accusations false and said he had provided legal services that “far exceeded any dry cleaning offered” as part of a “barter arrangement.”
Also last month, Joyce made charitable donations to resolve campaign finance issues, including the use of money from his political account to help cover costs of his son’s graduation party and several other reporting inconsistencies.
The Ethics Commission previously investigated whether Joyce had used his position as a state senator to receive a discout on designer sunglasses that he purchased from a business in his district as gifts for fellow senators, but declined to take any action.
Written by Matt Murphy