A former state representative testified in the corruption trial of Salvatore F. DiMasi today that he felt “honored” to sponsor a budget amendment on behalf of the former speaker that dedicated at least $4.5 million to business intelligence software for the state Department of Education.
Former representative Robert Coughlin of Dedham said he did not know anything about the software, but that he thought it was appropriate to support new technology and education.
All along, according to prosecutors, DiMasi was using Coughlin as a catalyst to secure the funding, so it could ultimately be awarded to a Burlington software company in exchange for kickbacks for DiMasi and his associates.
As a new representative, Coughlin said, he was glad to take the leading role in sponsoring the budget amendment in 2006.
“The speaker’s office asked, and it was an honor to do it,” Coughlin said.
Under cross-examination, he acknowledged that he did not speak to DiMasi directly, but was asked to sponsor the amendment by one of the former speaker’s key aides.
But “I looked at [the aide] as the speaker’s office,” he said.
Prosecutors allege that DiMasi made sure the Legislature passed the funding so he could then steer a contract for the software to Burlington software company Cognos.
It was the first of two contracts, totaling $17.5 million, that the company won with DiMasi’s help, according to prosecutors.
Earlier today, James Eisenberg, a top legislative aide, said that the former speaker’s office contacted him to make sure the $4.5 million figure was not reduced during the budget process.
Eisenberg, chief of staff for current House Speaker Robert DeLeo, was also a top aide when DeLeo chaired the House Ways and Means Committee under DiMasi’s leadership.
Eisenberg said he was contacted by then-DiMasi aide Kyle Sullivan, to maintain the $4.5 million appropriation.
"If the speaker's office expressed an interest ... in a budget amendment, that was important to know,” Eisenberg said.
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