Report about sheriffs and contributions is click-bait

Jan. 26, 2022 | G. Michael Dobbs
news@thereminder.com

This week, I’ll share another chapter of inside baseball from the world of journalism.

Recently, I received a report from Common Cause – which describes itself as “a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy” – that purports to show a link between sheriffs who are elected to their position and who raise money for campaigning to abuse.

This is how the organization describes the report: “In the United States, more than 3,000 sheriffs possess unchecked authority over arrests, incarceration and civil enforcement. Common Cause and Sheriffs for Trusting Communities sought financial and related data from 105 sheriffs to investigate conflicts of interest and ethics issues. For this report, we define a conflict of interest when a public official (e.g., a sheriff) is in a position to receive a personal benefit (e.g., a campaign contribution) from actions or decisions made in their official capacity (e.g., awarding contracts). More specifically, we define conflicts of interest as contributions to sheriff candidates from incarceration-specific businesses, as well as other businesses and individuals that may stand to benefit by doing business with a sheriff’s office (including construction, food services, and weapons manufacturers). Unfortunately, many conflicts of interest are not prohibited by government ethics laws.”

The report covers sheriffs in 11 states, including all the sheriffs in Massachusetts.
Okay, sounds interesting. I did a search in the report for Patrick J. Cahillane, the sheriff of Hampshire County, and Nick Cocchi, the sheriff of Hampden County. There were no references for Cahillane in the report and six for Cocchi, all of which centered around the concept that Cocchi received political contributions from various businesses.

There is no evidence presented that I could find that links Cocchi to any illegal behavior centered on these contributions.

Now, I understand there are abuses nationally with sheriffs, the power they wield and how they spend their budget. This report, though, takes a very broad brush and smears a lot of people unnecessarily.

For some reporters and editors, the mere suggestion of improprieties is enough to get their engines revving. I try to take a more cautious approach, because the only thing that would make this story of interest to our readers is the revelation of illegal activity by local sheriffs.

The report does not reveal anything like that for Hampden and Hampshire counties. I would be happy to report issues, if there were any, because that’s my job.

I emailed Common Cause and asked for specific issues with our local sheriffs. The reply was to re-read the report. I asked for specifics, but none were forthcoming.

My time is limited, and frankly, this was a waste of it. Common Cause should be ashamed of this shoddy effort in trying to get their report covered.

If they had wanted to truly make an impact, they would have concentrated on instances in which a real abuse of power took place.

Healey takes the plunge, pundits rejoice

I love politics almost as much as I love movies, and twice a week, I talk politics with my cigar friends at the world-famous Smokey Joe’s Cigar Lounge in downtown Springfield.

The recent announcement by state Sen. Eric Lesser that he is running for lieutenant governor is a present to a guy like me and some of my friends. We’ve had many discussions.

It’s a gift, because now there is an open seat, and we like to run scenarios about who will run for that seat.

It’s sort of like fantasy sports.

There are several local politicians who apparently are considering running for state senate. We have confirmation about one of them, but until that person formally announces I’ll keep it private.

The local drama is only matched by the state-wide one in which we were all waiting for Attorney General Maura Healey to make up her mind. There has been months of speculation about will she or won’t she, and now we know.
My guess is that she would not have considered it if Gov. Charlie Baker had opted for another term. But Baker is ending his time in that position, and Healey certainly has a good shot for it.

So, there will be another open seat, insuring more discussions, more cigars and more beverages.

I think I’ll start a pool for when we will first see Healey out here in the wilderness.

In the meantime, the cigars and beverages at Smokey Joe’s will be punctuated by political theories and rumors.

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