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One-party dominance can lead to corruption, Brown says

Senator Scott Brown spoke of overcoming adversity at Lasell College’s commencement yesterday. He also urged graduates to consider a life in public service. Senator Scott Brown spoke of overcoming adversity at Lasell College’s commencement yesterday. He also urged graduates to consider a life in public service. (Stewart Woodward for The Boston Globe)
By Glen Johnson
Globe Staff / May 16, 2011

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Senator Scott Brown said yesterday that the federal corruption trial of former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi highlights the dangers of one-party dominance in Massachusetts and a go-along-to-get-along political culture.

Injecting politics into a normally celebratory moment, Brown said in remarks delivered at the Lasell College commencement ceremony: “I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican — just as one political party can’t be right 100 percent of the time, it shouldn’t have 100 percent of the power. Unchallenged power grows arrogant over time. It is what has given us one case of graft after another.’’

The lone Republican in the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Brown is seeking reelection next year in what has historically been a Democratic state. Democrats have begun lining up to challenge him, and Brown’s opponents have already started pounding him with advertising campaigns.

Brown used the public occasion to outline what he sees as a challenge to the high ideals of public service.

DiMasi, a Boston Democrat; his friend and accountant Richard Vitale; and Beacon Hill lobbyist Richard McDonough have been charged with abusing the power of the speaker’s office. They have been accused of trying to steer two performance-management software contracts totaling $17.5 million to Canadian software company Cognos in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret payments.

“The news coming out of federal court is discouraging for all of us who want and expect honest government,’’ said Brown, who used to serve with DiMasi in the House before moving on to the state Senate. “The accused, if convicted, should get the punishment they deserve. But it’s not just these defendants in that courtroom who have let us down. They have been enabled by a go-along-to-get-along attitude that deeply saturates the one-party control of government in this state.

“Those standing trial are being called to account, but that by itself will not end the culture of corruption,’’ Brown said. “That is what I like about elections. If you think the system has failed us, then your vote can change the system. I do not say these things to discourage you. I actually hope it will cause you to consider a career in public service. Your idealism, your energy, your optimism gives me hope for the future.’’

The speech, delivered outdoors on the college’s Taylor Field, took place just before a rainstorm that drenched the commencement.

“He was very well received,’’ college spokeswoman Michelle Gaseau said. “He was humorous, he cracked a couple jokes, and the audience appreciated him. He definitely brought some notoriety to the college.’’

Elsewhere in his speech, Brown touched on his whirlwind life since January 2010, when he upset the political establishment by winning the US Senate seat held for nearly a half-century by Democrat Edward M. Kennedy. In 2012, Brown will be seeking his first full, six-year term.

“It has allowed me to do things and meet people I never imagined possible and to involve myself in the major issues of the day, from protecting America from enemies who would do us harm to steering us away from the financial calamity that awaits if we continue to spend money we don’t have,’’ Brown said.

He also noted he has come down to earth in at least one respect: He has been bounced out of Kennedy’s prime office overlooking the Capitol to less attractive quarters farther away.

“It turns out the office selection system in the US Senate is a little like the dorm room lottery in college,’’ he said. “And it also turns out I’m pretty low on the seniority list — more like a sophomore than a senior.’’

Glen johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com.