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WBZ TV (Boston)

Team investigation
By Joe Bergantino
May 21, 2003

An exclusive I-Team investigation.

The focus--house speaker Tom Finneran. The politician responsible for spending millions of your tax dollars on legislative perks.

The I-Team has found that the speaker actually changed his district to make it easier for him to win re-election.

I-Team Reporter Joe Bergantino on how Finneran's backroom maneuvers are costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There is a stark contrast between Tom Finneran --who is white and Irish... And the neighborhood he lives in and represents.

The Mattapan section of Boston--where Finneran lives-- is about 95 per cent people of color.

So how has Finneran managed to get re-elected from this area time and time again?

George Pillsbury, Money and Politics Project:

"He took out thousands of black voters and he put in thousands of white voters and he did this in a calculated way to insure he could win re-election."

As one of the state's most powerful politicians, Finneran has a lot of say in how legislative districts get created.

Since 1987, Finneran has re-carved his district by adding precincts with 8700 more white voters ...and eliminating precincts with about 2300 minority voters.

James Cofield, Black Political Task Force:

"The districts were drawn in such a way to reduce the minority population in these districts in violation of federal law."

Take a look at these maps.

By 2001, 74 percent of voting age residents in Finneran's district were minority. Minority voter turnout was high.

And the risk of a serious challenge was a strong possibility.

So Finneran gobbled up a piece of Milton--which is mostly white-- and moved it into his district. He added on this white section of Dorchester and then dropped these three precincts...where minorities voted in large numbers.

Bottom line--Finneran's district went from 74 per cent to 61 percent minority.

Maude Hurd lives in one of the precincts no longer in Finneran's district.

Maude Hurd, Dorchester resident

"I'm angry . I'm very angry that not only did he do it. We didn't know it was done until after the fact."

So how did this happen?

Finneran hired this attorney--his life long friend Larry DiCara--to carve up every district in Massachusetts--including Finneran's.

It happened here at the state house--behind closed doors.

And guess far, it's cost you about 500 thousand of your tax dollars paid to the law firm where Larry DiCara is a partner.

George Pillsbury:

"This is an abuse of taxpayer dollars. Spending money to deny other people the chance to run against you. No one would say that's a good use of taxpayer dollars."

As for Tom Finneran--he refused a sit-down interview so we caught up with him.

Thomas Finneran:

"I think it's a silly accusation. I've always run in a district that has a majority of minority folks and that's still the case."

But the fact is many of the minorities left in Finneran's district are not citizens and are not eligible to vote

Rob Richie, Center For Voting and Democracy:

"Massachusetts has mastered the art of incumbent protection. It's one of the best examples, if not the best example, of legislators drawing districts that keep them safe from voters. Meaning safe from competition."

For Tom Finneran that's meant running unopposed in most elections.

Last year, he kept his job as one of the state's most powerful politicians with only 76 hundred votes.

The governor --needed more than a million.

How and why Finneran changed the make-up of his own district is the subject of a federal lawsuit- scheduled to go to trial this summer.

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