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Globe Editorial

Polito: No license for cronyism

October 29, 2010

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In the annals of corruption scandals, Karyn Polito’s Red Sox license plates are a fairly minor issue. Polito, a state legislator from Shrewsbury who now is running for treasurer, filed a bill in 2002 to create a set of Red Sox vanity plates, which raise money for the Jimmy Fund. After the bill passed, 68 of the coveted first 100 “RS’’ plates went to Polito’s friends, relatives, campaign donors, and associates. And while Polito says her friends were simply first in line, she did not explain why the words “per KPolito’’ appeared on all 68 of the applications.

Whether this violates the state’s conflict of interest law is unclear; the $40 plates may not be considered items of “substantial value’’ (though Ben Affleck paid $50,000 for the number 1 at a charity auction). And for those considering Polito over Steve Grossman for treasurer, the license plates shouldn’t be a disqualifying factor unto themselves. But in terms of reinforcing the impression that Beacon Hill is a hotbed of cronyism and insider deals, a small story like this speaks volumes. Shenanigans like this, however small-bore, lead to widespread mistrust of government. And that serves no public official — or candidate — well.

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