|This is one of the four photos that DiMasi's office emailed to reporters showing "one of numerous stained areas."|
House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, who chided Governor Deval Patrick for buying $10,000 drapes for the corner office earlier this year, has launched an extreme makeover of his own.
But DiMasi, well aware of the political agony that Drapesgate caused the governor, has taken charge of the public relations situation.
The speaker issued a preemptive press release yesterday entitled "House Speaker Begins First Renovation in 20 Years, DiMasi Committee Paying for Majority of Costs."
The statement said taxpayers would cover the cost of new presidential blue carpeting for three rooms in DiMasi's third-floor office suite, estimated at $13,000 plus installation. The speaker's campaign fund would pay for about $30,000 in office furnishings. David Guarino, a spokesman for the speaker, said the new furnishings would include a conference table, six wooden armchairs, a leather sofa, two Lincoln chairs, a new coffee table, a sofa table, two wing chairs, and two lamps.
"He is always conscious of how taxpayer dollars are spent, including in his own office," Guarino said.
"Now I get it," said Kyle Sullivan, a spokesman for the governor. "Rugs good, drapes bad."
DiMasi, a Democrat from the North End, has been priming the State House press corps for months for this development, complaining heartily about the stains on his carpet when reporters come to interview him.
Lest any skeptic question the need for renovation, however, the speaker's office yesterday submitted evidence of the carpet's poor condition, e-mailing reporters four photographs of the shabby beige floor covering he has suffered with for several years. Exhibit A: The speaker's reception area "with visibile stain and rip covered by duct tape," according to the caption. Exhibit B: "One of numerous stained areas."
"These renovations are long overdue," DiMasi said in the statement. "After these improvements, I and future Speakers can host the Governor, Senate President, foreign dignitaries, fellow lawmakers, and the public in offices that better reflect the historic building we occupy and the responsibilities given to us."
Guarino said the speaker has in the past year received officials from Israel, Guatemala, Italy, China, and Turkey.
Asked whether any visitors have ever complained about DiMasi's shoddy digs, Guarino said, "It's safe to say people constantly remark to the speaker and staff about the state of the carpet in the three offices and the furnishings in the office."
Yesterday, even Representative Bradley H. Jones Jr., a North Reading Republican and the House minority leader, could not find fault with the speaker's decision. He said the carpet in DiMasi's office is "certainly in need of attention" and praised DiMasi for using his campaign funds to pay for his furniture.
Office rehabilitations have long been a sensitive subject on Beacon Hill. In 1988 Senate President William Bulger created an uproar when he spent more than $160,000 in renovations on his office, including a $41,000 English carpet. Patrick ended up agreeing to pay for the drapes out of his own pocket.
Senator Michael Morrissey said he bought most of his office furniture at an outlet store in Quincy 15 years ago.
"Unless it's totally broken, I don't order it, because I don't want a story," he said, adding that tired furniture isn't worst problem in his workspace. "Controlling the mice would be a step in the right direction."