Washington Prowler

Profligate Patrick

Obama's man resurrects Taxachusetts. Plus: Harried Harry.

By 6.16.08

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HEY BIG SPENDER
Sen. John McCain has had to deal with liberal, Republican former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney; now Sen. Barack Obama has the current liberal Democrat governor of Massachusetts to deal with.

Gov. Deval Patrick, who early in the primary season spurned his former mentor Bill Clinton and endorsed Obama for the Democrat nomination, is seeking to raise his national profile on Obama's coattails in hopes of a prime position in his administration, say Massachusetts Democrat advisers.

"If he can get a senior post in an Obama administration, he'll take it," says one state party political consultant. "Half of Patrick's state administration is raising money so that they can run to fill his seat."

Patrick has publicly denied an interest in leaving a job he has held for a comparatively brief period of time. And it's -- to say the least -- a remote possibility that he would be in line for a vice presidential nod, as he had some of his advisers touting several months ago.

Patrick, though, will be front and center with Obama on campaign stops and fundraising events, though the governor's track record is one that Obama probably wants to run away from.

Patrick has directed a state budget process that is weighed down by deficits and spending, including a gubernatorial office budget that jumped 80% in one year. Aides say the bulk of the increase is for a "volunteer program" that will run out of the governor's office. Some say it is a fund to pay out to friends and consultant "volunteer" fees that they otherwise would not be able to receive without a lengthy contract-approval process.

"Republicans will call it a slush fund, we [Democrats] call it a discretionary fund," says another political consultant with ties to Patrick. "Every governor in the country has stuff like this in their budgets." Patrick is also spending money to open a Washington, D.C. office for himself.

Meanwhile, he is proposing heavy tax increases on current Massachusetts businesses, while offering tax breaks to attract new businesses to the state. For example: a quarter million in tax breaks for biotech and life sciences companies, which he will announce when he travels out to San Diego in the next couple of weeks.

All the while, Massachusetts localities are struggling with budget shortfalls, with no help in sight from the state government.

"We have local citizens time and again voting down budget increases and expanded spending on things like schools and roads, and we have a governor offering tax breaks to companies that will just pour more money into places like Harvard," says a state party official who has worked hard to oppose Patrick's budget and profligate spending. "People haven't thrown around the term Taxachusetts in a few years, but Patrick is doing a pretty job of bringing back the nickname."

HUFFY HARRY
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters recently that Sen. John McCain doesn't have the temperament to be President of the United States. When pressed, Reid said that McCain's temper was legendary in the Senate.

He might as well have been speaking about himself.

Reid's temper, according to Democrat aides in other offices, tends to reveal itself most when he is not shown what he considers to be the proper deference owed to the position he holds.

"It's almost never about policy, it's always about his feeling slighted in some way. He always makes it personal, whether it's a Senate colleague or a staffer," says a former Senate Democrat leadership aide.

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