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Finneran reportedly forgoes lobbying

Was under pressure from WRKO officials

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff / February 9, 2008

Former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, host of a morning talk show on WRKO-AM, is bowing to pressure from the radio station's management and will abandon his plan to set up a Beacon Hill lobbying practice, says a source who was briefed on the decision.

Finneran's reversal is intended to end criticism that erupted after the Globe reported last week that he was signing up two lobbying clients, including the State Police troopers' union. Critics said that representing special interests at the State House would compromise the integrity of his show, which frequently focuses on state politics and issues.

After a week of discussions about Finneran's plans, the station rejected his plan to lobby, and Finneran decided he would rather stay on the air than push the issue, said the source, who was briefed on the outcome. WRKO declined to comment yesterday, and Finneran did not return telephone calls.

The former speaker's show, "Finneran's Forum," has struggled in the ratings. But the station management has said it is satisfied with Finneran's performance for the past 12 months and wanted to keep him in its lineup, the source said.

Finneran joined the station a year ago, a month after he had pleaded guilty to federal obstruction-of-justice charges stemming from his testimony in a civil suit in that challenged the House's plan to redraw legislative seats for 2002 elections. After his plea, he was forced to resign as the $500,000 a year president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. He has also been disbarred.

The Globe reported last week that Finneran and his former law partner, James E. Byrne, had signed up two clients - the State Police Association of Massachusetts and the Liquor Liability Joint Underwriters Association, a little-known state insurance board - as part of their effort to build up a lobbying firm.

Station representatives said last week that they were taken by surprise by the Globe report that he had decided to begin lobbying.

The source also confirmed that the station owners rejected a proposed compromise by Finneran in which the partnership he formed with Byrne would contract the clients but only Byrne would actually lobby the State House. Byrne and Finneran had been law partners before Finneran was disbarred.

A different source who was involved in Finneran's original contract negotiations with the station a year ago said last week that the former legislative leader had raised the issue of lobbying in those talks, and that it had been agreed that Finneran would seek management's permission before signing up clients. It was unclear yesterday why the station has decided to take a harder line now than during last year's talks.

Finneran, a Mattapan Democrat who served as speaker from 1996 to 2004, said in an interview last week that he wanted to branch out. "I am at a stage in my life where I would like to do a good number of things," he said last week. "I don't want to be narrow in the way I approach life."

Correction: Because of a reporting error, stories in the City & Region section on Jan. 29, Feb. 9, and in the Business section on Wednesday incorrectly said former House speaker Thomas Finneran had been disbarred; in fact, Finneran's law license has been suspended pending a recommendation to the court from the Board of Bar Overseers. The stories on Jan. 29 and Feb. 9 also incorrectly gave the name of one of Finneran's lobbying clients, the Liquor Liability Joint Underwriting Association of Massachusetts.

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