Conservative Watchdog Calls For Investigation of Massachusetts House Speaker Over State Credit Card

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A tax-and-spending watchdog organization is calling for the state Ethics Commission to investigate Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo for his use of a state government credit card.

DeLeo (D-Winthrop) spent $4,745 on Chinese food for himself and his fellow legislator using a House procurement card while they were working on the state budget in April. The spending was first reported by The Boston Herald last week.

The food was purchased from a Chinese restaurant in Winthrop, a near-North Shore town DeLeo lives in and represents.

The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a conservative organization and frequent critic of DeLeo’s, said Monday that the House Speaker appears to have been shifting political expenses from his campaign funds to the House P-card (as the credit card is known) paid for by taxpayers, and said the state Ethics Commission should look into the matter to determine whether what he did is legal and to establish guidelines for how state employees should act in the future.

“In previous years, the Speaker generally used his campaign committee to fund these types of lavish meals for legislators — a use completely allowed under campaign finance rules, as an expenditure made in furtherance of his political career. Now, it appears he is attempting to shift the costs of these elaborate meals to the taxpayers through use of the P-Card. One can only assume that the political benefits of the meals remain the same,” wrote Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, in a letter to the state Ethics Commission. “The Massachusetts taxpayers are always on the table, never at it.”

DeLeo, asked for comment by New Boston Post, said his use of the House credit card is legal and ethical, and he took a swing at the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.

“The House welcomes a review by the State Ethics Commission of the House’s use of the procurement credit card because the House’s use of the procurement credit card has at all times been consistent with the conflict of interest law and with the procurement rules of the House of Representatives,” DeLeo said in a written statement through a spokesman on Monday.

“Additionally, we cannot help but to point out that while Mass Fiscal Alliance’s commitment to transparency seemingly applies to all but the Mass Fiscal Alliance. When will they release the names of their donors so the public can see who is providing their funding? The Mass Fiscal Alliance’s selective commitment to transparency is as dubious as it is hypocritical – they haven’t made public financial disclosures (Form 990) since 2017,” DeLeo said in the statement. “The House’s procurement credit card spending is available for public inspection the same cannot be said of the list of donors to the shadowy Mass Fiscal Alliance and its companion Fiscal Partners Inc.”

Craney, asked for comment, said Monday night that DeLeo’s response is inappropriate.

“It’s unfortunate the Speaker’s press office feels the need to attack an organization that calls into question the Speaker’s use of taxpayer money. It’s unfortunate but not surprising,” Craney said in an email message.

“Too often, when it comes to our state lawmakers, the taxpayer is almost never at the table, but they are on the table,” he continued. “Hopefully the state ethics commission will provide guidelines so that even one if the most powerful politicians in the state feels accountable to the taxpayer.”