Deval Patrick’s travel slush fund no longer secret

By Yaël Ossowski | Watchdog.org

If your governor had a secret
travel slush fund worth tens of millions of dollars used to jet set to
Japan, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, wouldn’t you want to know
about it?

That’s
the question put to Massachusetts residents this week after revelations
former Gov. Deval Patrick used off-the-record bookkeeping to conceal
more than $37.5 million driven to a secret fund to pay for trips to
promote Massachusetts abroad.

Democrats and Republicans in the
Legislature have begun their probe of the former democratic governor
turned hedge fund manager for Bain Capital, once headed up by his fellow
former Gov. Mitt Romney.

As uncovered by the Boston Herald on Friday,
the former governor enjoyed dozens of trade missions abroad at public
expense but without legislative approval. His administration is
purported to have shoveled as much as $27 million into off-budget
accounts from the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, Massport
and the Mass Tech Collaborative, all quasi-independent agencies.

Both
Massport, the state’s port authority, and Mass Tech Collaborative, the
venture seeking to bring Israeli tech firms to Massachusetts, paid $1.75
million for Patrick’s trade trips.

This amount includes $535,558 for hotels, $332,193 for airfare, $305,976 for limos and more than $175,000 on other expenses.

These agencies are run independently of the state government to avoid the pitfalls of politics.

“Why
do they have that money to burn and why were the transfers so
effectively hidden from the public?,” asked Jim Stergios, executive
director of the Pioneer Institute, a nonprofit free market think tank.
“Quasi-public agencies, set up once to be self-funding or agencies
capable of retaining unique expertise, are too often in Massachusetts
and, frankly, across the country havens of secrecy that are politically
well-connected and with money to burn.”

He told Watchdog.org that by bypassing the Legislative, he most likely broke a state law.

“The
legislature has the exclusive power to appropriate funds, and the
executive is there to execute programs,” he said. “Governor Patrick
overstepped his rightful role by appropriating funds in what is likely
an illegal manner.”

Members of both the State House and Senate say they have no idea how the money was spent.

As
such, the House Post Audit Committee has opened an investigation into
the expenses, trying to track down how the money was funneled into
secret accounts and where it came from.

State Rep. David Linsky, chairman of the committee, said he was not aware of the accounts.

“We are at the very preliminary stages of an investigation,” he said. “What the Herald uncovered caught all of us by surprise.”

“An
investigation should begin immediately to ascertain whether the
transfer and use of these funds was as a result of improper actions or
if any fraud, waste, or abuse has occurred,” GOP State Senate Minority
Leader Bruce Tarr told reporters Monday. “It appears that these
transfers were made in such a manner as to elude disclosure and
circumvent accountability.”

Throughout his term, Patrick was
insistent on the need to travel to other countries and represent the
interests of Massachusetts businesses. In the span of a few years, he
visited Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Panama, Mexico, Israel and
the United Arab Emirates.

“We are opening our doors to markets all around the world and it’s making a difference, it’s adding jobs here,” said Patrick to reporters last year.

As
if the former governor didn’t have enough of a traveling problem, he
was once slated to receive more than $7,500 per day spent advocating for
Boston to be the 2024 host of the Olympic Games. He only relinquished
the pay after the uproar that ensued once it was revealed to the public.

Yaël Ossowski is a Canadian-American journalist and writer living in Vienna. He is founder and editor of Devolution Review, deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter at Watchdog.org. He has a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) from the CEVRO Institute in Prague and a Bachelor's in Political Science from Concordia University, Montreal. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria, and his writings have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and online outlets across the world in multiple languages.
Website https://yael.ca
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