A duel over who has the worse family scandal is starting to rumble through the race for the 6th Congressional District. This is the kind of race to the bottom that makes it clear why voters get turned off by politics and why they hold Congress in particular in such low esteem.
Congressman John Tierney’s own scandal has become well known throughout the district, if not the state. In 2010 his wife pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns on behalf of her brother, who was running an illegal gambling operation. She also admitted to being “willfully blind” about the source of the millions of dollars in the account that she managed. She spent 30 days in prison.
Since then, Tierney has faced questions over how much he knew about his wife’s dealings. It’s become a major issue for him in this election, and it has given ample fodder to his Republican opponent Richard Tisei. As much as Tierney might want to put it in the rearview mirror, that’s not happening. In recent days, three nonpartisan watchdog groups have asked that the House Ethics Committee probe whether Tierney was required to publicly disclose the more than $200,000 that his wife received while managing the bank account.
Tierney’s woes have made national headlines. But it’s been an uphill battle for Democrats to get anyone to pay much attention to a murky mini scandal involving Tisei, or more accurately, his parents.
Last week the state Democratic Committee fired back at Tisei, creating a website that documents alleged business misdeeds and claims of fraud lodged against Tisei’s parents and the home inspection business they ran. The website tries to bring into focus Richard Tisei’s own involvement in his parent’s problems. The Democrats’ intentions to make this a family affair were clear at the website’s media unveiling last week, which was billed as “Richard Tisei’s Family Web of Fraud.”
The Tisei scandal, if you can call it that, doesn’t boil down to a succinct point. Rather, it brings up questions of whether Tisei attempted to intentionally shield a family asset — a property in Wakefield — from creditors who had won judgments against his parents and had a lien on the property. Tisei attempted to sell the property to his 23-year-old legislative aide. The sale did not take place.
The state Democratic Committee’s allegations are certainly made more foggy by the fact that simply to explain the matter, they relied in part on a complicated flow chart to show the ties between Tisei, his parents, and various business deals. The flow chart looks more like a random clumping of 20 odd-shaped blocks, tied together with arrows that lead this way and that. It’s easier for a tourist to drive through downtown Boston’s notoriously tangled streets than it is to figure out what the point of the scandal chart is.
For Democrats battling the damage done to Tierney’s reputation, the questions raised over Tisei’s family business dealings are an obvious attempt to tar Tisei with the same brush.
It will be up to voters to decide whether these family matters should disqualify either candidate. But, as we’ve said before, the overriding factor in choosing one candidate over the other should be their very different positions on the critical issues that we face as a nation.