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It's not a Caddy. It's worse.

This isn't bad political symbolism, like driving a state-leased Cadillac or buying expensive drapes. This is bad political judgment. Period.

Governor Deval Patrick makes a telephone call to a top official at Citigroup on behalf of Ameriquest Mortgage. He tells the Globe he made the Feb. 20 call not in his role as governor, but after a personal request from a top official at ACC Capital Holdings, the firm that owns Ameriquest.

Former attorney general Thomas Reilly fielded heavy criticism from me and others, when, as a candidate for governor, he made a telephone call to a Worcester district attorney on behalf of a grieving family who lost two teenage daughters. Reilly's judgment was harshly questioned because he called the D.A. to remind him that the sisters' autospy reports should not be released to the public. The call, I wrote then, "smacked of political favoritism."

Now comes Patrick, who intervenes not on behalf of a grieving family, but on behalf of an economically pressed lending firm. Ameriquest Mortgage was seeking urgent financial assistance from Citigroup, which has multiple business interests in Massachusetts. He is asked to make a phone call to Citigroup by Adam Bass, senior executive and legal counsel to ACC Capital Holdings. Patrick, who resigned last year from the ACC board, makes the call, offering himself as a personal reference on ACC Capital Holdings.

Can Patrick really believe his personal identity is separate from his elected position? Does he really believe the recipient of that telephone call - former US Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin, now a Citigroup executive - considered Patrick your average private citizen, and not governor of the Commonwealth, when he took it?

If Patrick does believe that, wow. He is not a new governor making rookie mistakes. He is a new governor who doesn't understand what it means to hold public office.

The phone call to Citigroup doesn't smack of political favoritism. It reeks of it.

Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail address is

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