Boston 2024: “Gullibility, What’s Your Policy?”

By now it’s clear to everybody that Boston 2024 is having a public relations crisis over its plan to bring the Olympics here. You’re having a public relations crisis when you need to reverse yourself all of a sudden and come out in favor a public vote on the wisdom of your proposal. You’re having a public relations crisis when you have to retract the $7,500 daily rate promised to former Governor Deval Patrick for schmoozing the members of the International Olympic Committee. And you’re definitely having a public relations crisis when the communications director for the U.S. Olympics Committee offers up this tepid defense of your Twitter output: “Pretty sure they were not deliberately promoting the nazi agenda.”

Fortunately for the Boston 2024 team, its members include specialists in public relations work, such as the marketing firm Hill, Holliday. And fortunately for the rest of us, a preview of the kind of PR blitz we may soon expect in support of Boston 2024 is already available on the Hill, Holliday website. Here they are tooting their horn about a successful marketing campaign they undertook for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (not coincidentally, another member of the Boston 2024 team) a couple years back. I quote from it at some length because — I just could not help myself.

Making a Challenger Brand a Leader

Liberty Mutual…needed a resonant idea that would impact awareness and consideration, magnify its media investment, and drive growth – particularly online.

Liberty Mutual was founded on the belief that the employees were responsible for “helping people live safer and more secure lives.” Internal interviews of everyone from the CEO to the call-center reps confirmed a resounding desire to do the right thing rather than the easy thing. This shared value of responsibility became our resonant idea. It also meant we had found our best customers: “The Responsible Ones” who shared the same values and culture as Liberty Mutual itself.

By going beyond the demographical information to connect the consumer to Liberty Mutual via a shared value of responsibility, we struck a chord that has generated familiarity, fame, and favorability.

Kicking off in 2006, the campaign, tagged with “Responsibility, What’s Your Policy?,” launched with TV, print, a new Web site, and digital focused on people “doing the right thing” versus the easy thing.

The campaign struck a chord and the client was surprised and delighted by hundreds of letters and e-mails thanking them for the effort celebrating responsibility. Customers recognized themselves, employees rallied to the idea, and prospects became customers based on their alignment with this shared value. When it became clear that stakeholders wanted to further engage in this idea, we created a platform for them to continue the conversation.

The ResponsibilityProject.com launched in 2008 and became a program where consumers could seek Liberty Mutual out. We directed people to the site and blog where rich, compelling stories and videos about responsibility were brought to life…

Ah, yes, some favorable press involving compelling stories about responsibility and doing the right thing rather than the easy thing. That sounds just like what Boston 2024 is in the market for about now.

Which brings us to the question of what else was going on at Liberty Mutual during the time that Hill Holliday was orchestrating the “Responsibility, What’s Your Policy?” pitch. As it happens, we know a fair amount about that, thanks to former Globe columnist and current Globe editor Brian McGrory. It seems that most of the time the executives at Liberty Mutual were doing the easy thing rather than the right thing. In a series of nine columns written during two months in 2012 (a sampling of these columns: here, here and here), McGrory detailed Liberty Mutual’s lavish corporate ethic: $50 million in compensation for its CEO, a top-nine executive payroll that exceeded that of the Boston Red Sox starters, $200,000 in compensation for each member of the Board of Directors, five private jets for flights to luxury vacation homes, etc., etc., and all this money coming from the hundreds of thousands of Liberty Mutual policy holders. Then, as now, the Liberty Mutual executives were among a group of friends circulating enormous riches. During the administration of Governor Deval Patrick, now Boston 2024’s ambassador to the International Olympic Committee, the state gave a $22.5 million tax break to Liberty Mutual to build its new headquarters in Boston. Liberty Mutual awarded the contract to renovate its CEO’s executive suite (woven silk wallcoverings from the Netherlands, personal exercise room, price tag $4.5 million) to Suffolk Construction, whose CEO, John Fish, is now the Chairman of Boston 2024. And, back to where we started, the public relations contract with Hill, Holliday, whose CEO is the co-chair of Boston 2024’s public relations and marketing committee.

You get the picture. Boston 2024 is in serious need of a resonant idea right now. Therefore, we’ll soon be hearing of one homespun value or another that will be said to animate our would-be Olympians. If it’s as good as “Responsibility, what’s your policy?” was for Liberty Mutual, maybe the folks at Hill, Holliday will be bragging about it in a few years. Or maybe we’re smarter than that now.

Dear Boston 2024: Just Be Your Rich, Well-connected Selves

After their initial public relations effort was panned as the work of a secretive, hubristic cabal, the folks who want to bring the Olympics to Boston in 2024 have gone back to the huddle to plan a relaunch. Here’s a suggestion, Boston 2024: just be yourselves. For example, let’s see more of the honesty you showed in that pitch you made to wealthy executives, urging them to join the elite Founders 100 Club (admission, $50,000):

Supporting Boston 2024 brings with it the opportunity to network and develop relationships with the businesses, entrepreneurs, and wealthiest individuals in New England – groups who are already working together to bring the Olympic Games to Boston.

As you said elsewhere in that pitch, investing in the Olympics is a smart opportunity. So why not say a little more about why? Like who those “wealthiest individuals in New England” who are already on the Olympics bandwagon are? Just for starters, we know that at least seven of them belong to the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent (measured by Forbes Magazine at $3.8 million annually — “the point at which one achieves orbital velocity and starts to escape earth’s monetary gravitational field”):

  • Bill Teuber, Executive Vice President, EMC Corporation: $6.0 million in 2013
  • Ron Sargent, Chairman and CEO, Staples Corporation: $10.8 million in 2013
  • David Long, Chairman and CEO, Liberty Mutual: $10.9 million in 2013
  • Roger Crandall, President and CEO, Mass Mutual Financial Group: $11.4 million in 2013
  • Jeffrey M. Leiden, Chairman, President and CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals: $13.1 million in 2013
  • Joseph L. Hooley, President and CEO, State Street Corporation: $15.8 million in 2013
  • Joseph M. Tucci, Chairman, President and CEO, EMC Corporation: $16.6 million in 2013.

(Not for nothing does Boston’s income inequality score rank us very high among U.S. cities.)

Also, Boston 2024, you should chat up the networking possibilities. After all, one of the reasons the U.S. Olympic Committee picked you over the three other U.S. cities was, to quote the Globe, “the deep interlocking involvement” of political and business leaders here, which the USOC likes because it “gets things done.” Of course, the give-and-go play (Deval Patrick to Richard Davey to Deval Patrick) will probably never be surpassed as a classic of the genre, but it’s just one example. Consider these other deep interlocking involvements:

  • Doug Rubin is a Boston 2024 Member and Founding Partner of Northwind Strategies, which has done lobbying work for Suffolk Construction (John Fish, Boston 2024 Member and President of Suffolk Construction);
  • Karen Kaplan is a Boston 2024 Member and President and CEO of Hill Holliday, which has done public relations work for Liberty Mutual Corporation (David Long, Boston 2024 Member and CEO of Liberty Mutual);
  • David Manfredi is a Boston 2024 Member and Founder and Principal of Elkus-Manfredi Architects, which has provided architectural services for State Street Corporation (Joseph Hooley, Boston 2024 Member and State Street CEO), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Jeffrey Leiden, Boston 2024 Member and Vertex CEO), and Bentley University (Gloria Larson, Boston 2024 Member and Bentley University President);
  • John Fish is a Boston 2024 Member and President of Suffolk Construction, which built the David Koch Center for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT (Israel Ruiz, Boston 2024 Member and Executive Vice President at MIT), and which has provided construction services for Harvard University (Katie Lapp, Boston 2024 Member and Executive Vice President at Harvard), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Jeffrey Leiden, Boston 2024 Member and Vertex CEO), Hill Holliday (Karen Kaplan, Boston 2024 Member and President of Hill, Holliday), and Liberty Mutual (David Long, Boston 2024 Member and President of Liberty Mutual).

So to conclude, Boston2024: When you relaunch, just be yourselves. Not so much talk about “living legacies,” “powerful global experiences” and especially “transparency.” You got to your lofty places making money together and that’s one of the reasons why the U.S. Olympic Committee picked you. No sense trying to hide it.

(March 25: Post edited to reflect the fact that the U.S. Olympic Committee, not the International Olympic Committee, chose Boston.)

On Wednesday: More of Robert (DeLeo)’s Rules of Order

In our last episode on the parliamentary wrangling between the chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature, House Speaker Robert DeLeo was insisting that under the Joint House-Senate rules, the House was in charge of deciding if and when any bill would move out of committee (and the Senate was in charge of cleaning the chimney and sweeping the hearth). The Senate had responded by proposing changes to those rules to reflect the position of John Adams, among others, that “the House and the Senate are equal.”

Yesterday, a conference committee of the two chambers met for the first time to try to reach a compromise. It didn’t sound like much progress was made, although House member Ron Mariano did comment on how nice it was to see Senate member Anthony Petruccelli.

Speaker DeLeo’s insistence on the prerogatives he claims for the House (which he refers to as “the committee process”) is often in evidence, dramatically so on one occasion last March when he engaged in a labyrinthine series of maneuvers simply in order to avoid having the House act on a minimum wage bill that the Senate had acted on first. Here’s how he explained why such elaborate choreography was required: “It’s always been my feeling that this piece of legislation or any other piece of legislation must go through the committee process and that’s what this bill did, go through the committee process.”

Well, maybe not always. Like the time the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a criminal statute prohibiting the secret photographing of a nude or partially nude person was not broad enough to encompass the modern invasion of privacy known as “upskirting.” The Legislature put a law broadening the statute on the Governor’s desk the next day. When asked why that bill had not gone through the usual committee process, the Speaker replied that “special circumstances” may justify a departure from the committee process: “What I have heard generally from the public on this particular matter, the outrage that I have heard, I feel very comfortable in having the legislation pass without the so-called committee hearing process.”

Looks like we’ll be seeing some “special circumstances” again at Wednesday’s House session. You might have noticed that the owners of Suffolk Downs racetrack in Revere (which as we know is in Speaker DeLeo’s district) reached an agreement recently to bring horse racing back for a two-year period starting this summer. That would be the first good news for Suffolk Downs, whose bid for a casino license lost out last year, in quite a while. In order for horseracing to come back, though, the Legislature needs to approve. And guess what? The bill that the House is planning to pass on Wednesday (a supplementary funding bill that Governor Baker filed for some accounts running deficits, notably snow removal) was amended by the House Ways and Means Committee today to include the statutory green light that Suffolk Downs needs.

So good luck to the Senate — and to all of us — in figuring out when the House means “the committee process” and when it just means “the so-called committee process.”

Boston 2024: Dispatch From High Up Mount Olympus

I’m up here on Mount Olympus to check in on the gods who are behind the effort to bring the 2024 Olympic games to Boston. The air is a little thin for those of us who are oxygen breathers, but the ambrosia is quite fine.

From up here, you can spot Massachusetts in the distance as an “international beacon for drawing the best and brightest around the globe each year and as a cradle of innovation where you assemble to dream of, and plan for, a better future for all of us.”  Each day, these gods busy themselves  working “closely and collaboratively to better understand the intersection of our city and its citizens in planning a better tomorrow.” The gods say this job starts with “our greatest asset — our people,” so I thought it would be interesting to see the esteem with which some of them have held “our people” of late.

First up, Joseph “Jay” Hooley of State Street Corporation, who is the co-chair of the Boston 2024 Innovation and Technology Committee.

State Street Corporation, a large financial services company with headquarters in Boston, might be familiar to you from the Congressional debate on the Dodd-Frank financial services reform bill in 2010. State Street and other banks persuaded Senator Scott Brown, whose vote was critical to the bill’s passage, to champion a successful effort to loosen the so-called Volcker Rule, which prohibited banks from gambling in the market for their own profit (where the winnings might come, say, from the pockets of their own clients). Senator Brown said at the time that his advocacy on behalf of State Street and other banks would “protect Mass. jobs.” In the years since that statement, State Street has eliminated 2,960 jobs, including many from its Boston headquarters. Meanwhile, the compensation package for CEO Hooley has risen to $15.5 million.

Lest you think that Mr. Hooley’s company has not been responsible for creating any jobs, remember that the city of Boston granted State Street a tax break of $11.5 million, which led to Mr. Hooley’s decision to construct a new waterfront office building in South Boston. That construction project gave temporary employment to about 800 construction workers. Those workers were the employees of Suffolk Construction, whose president, John Fish, also happens to be the Chairman of Boston 2024.

Please pass the ambrosia back.

State Senate to House: Our Relationship Isn’t Working

The State Senate met last Thursday in between blizzards, and Topic A was a debate on the procedural rules that ought to govern the Legislature for the coming two-year session. The House made its rules proposal last month, and in response the Senate made a statement — a unanimous one — that it wants some changes in the ways the Senate and House conduct business together.

A little background. The 5000 or so bills the Legislature considers each session make their first stop at one of the 25 joint House-Senate committees, each of which has jurisdiction over a particular subject matter — Judiciary, Housing, Election Laws, Transportation, etc. The composition of the joint committees gives the House a nearly two-to-one advantage in membership. While this may seem to be a reasonable arrangement in light of the fact that there are 160 House members and 40 Senate members, the practical effect is that no bill moves out of a Joint Committee unless the House believes that it should, or is at least willing, in the interests of comity, to permit it to.

In the Senate’s view, comity has been in very short supply of late. And therefore the Senate is proposing to change the rules so that a majority of the Senate members on the joint committees can vote to approve Senate bills without the support of the House committee members. Similarly, House bills could be approved without the support of the Senate committee members (the Senate would likely point out that this arrangement is the status quo at present).

Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford, the sponsor of this rule change, explained that the Senate was seeking only equal treatment in the legislative process. The Senate had no desire to be “grand poobah,” he said — a statement suggesting that under the present inequitable arrangement there does exist an Office of the Grand Poobah in the State House (and its number is 356).

The issue of relative power in the joint committees has been simmering for some time. During the last legislative session it played out most contentiously in the process that led, eventually, to the laws that were passed governing the minimum wage and unemployment insurance. On the minimum wage issue, the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a hearing in June, 2013. By early November, to the Senate’s frustration, the Committee had still not issued any recommendation. So the Senate, acting under one of its own rules, asked the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to report out a bill for the Senate to consider. The Committee complied, and the Senate debated, amended and passed a minimum wage bill later in November.

Three months later, in February, 2014, not only had the House failed to act on the minimum wage proposal that the Senate had sent over, but also the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development had failed to take action on another issue in need of attention — changes to the state’s unemployment insurance system — on which the Committee had held a hearing the previous May. So again the Senate passed a bill of its own, just as it had with the minimum wage.

Pretty soon the Joint Committees were facing a March 19 deadline for completing action on all the bills before them. That deadline came and went with no action by the Labor Committee on either minimum wage or unemployment insurance. One day after that deadline, however the House chairman of the Labor Committee announced that proposals on both issues were ready. But by then, the Senate had pretty much had enough with procrastination, and it used its power under the rules to prevent the Committee from taking action after its deadline had passed. The Senate’s understandable position was that it had already passed bills on both these subjects and, especially in view of the fact that the deadline for committee action had passed, that the House could simply take up consideration of those Senate bills.

But the House refused to do so, and instead set about finding a way to circumvent the Senate. We can skip over some of the intervening details of the standoff (which are available here) to the finale, when the Senate blinked and agreed to receive the bills that the House had finally passed (which, in substance, were very similar to the Senate’s proposals). In order to advance those bills to final passage, the Senate essentially was required to re-enact the minimum wage and unemployment insurance debates they had already held.

To sum things up, the House used its numerical advantage on the Joint Committee to delay progress on bills that it agreed were high legislative priorities. Then it rejected the action that the Senate had taken in response to its delays (you might say that the Senate had neglected to ask “Mother, may I?”) and forced the Senate to duplicate its prior efforts. No wonder that the body intends not to repeat that deferential performance this session.

The Senate is proposing additional changes to the rules to increase transparency (by requiring committee votes to be posted online within 48 hours) and to decrease the opportunity for dilatory tactics (by requiring committees to finish their work on bills by mid-January instead of mid-March). If the House agrees to these amendments (and today the Speaker proposed a conference committee to resolve the House-Senate differences), the result will likely be greater openness and a restoration of balance of power between the House (whose 160 members represent 40,000 residents each) and the Senate (whose 40 members represent 160,000 residents each). And who knows – it might also affect the dynamics of power within each chamber.

A little comity might be the ideal, but this plan could work too.

Heard The One About Scott Brown’s $60,000 State Pension?

What with all the snowfalls, not to mention the Super Bowl, you might have missed the news that Scott Brown has applied to the State Board of Retirement to begin collecting his state pension. As reported by the Globe, Fox 25 and other outlets (but not the Boston Herald, which is ordinarily vigilant on public pension matters), Brown filed his application shortly after his electoral loss in New Hampshire in November.

Here’s the squirelly part. The stories are estimating the amount of his pension to be $60,000. That’s wildly wrong on the high side. His pension will be closer to one-third of that number.

Fox 25 has helpfully shared Senator Brown’s pension application, and a handy guide on the State Board of Retirement website walks you through the math. The amount of our former Senator’s state pension will be the product of:

  • The number of years of service he is claiming (Brown is claiming 16.5 years)
  • Multiplied by an adjustment for his current age, (Brown is 55, the youngest age at which it is even possible for non-public safety workers to apply for pension benefits, so his age factor is .015)
  • Multiplied by the highest 36 consecutive month average rate of regular compensation (Brown made between $73,200 and $76,400 during that time, so let’s eyeball that number at $74,200).

So, (16.5) x (.015) x $74,200 = $18,364 per year, considerably less than $60,000, but maybe enough to pay the property taxes on the New Hampshire homestead. Glad that’s cleared up.

If, like me, you have a nagging suspicion that Senator Brown’s pension, even at the modest number of $18,364, nevertheless involves some advantageous calculations that are not available to many of the rest of us, a couple more points.

  • Senator Brown’s highest 36 months of compensation were his last three years in the State Senate, when he received an additional $15,000 (on top of the base legislator salary) for serving as Third Assistant Minority Leader. Since he was the least senior member of the minority party during that time, the $15,000 bonus he received was compensation for leading himself. Without that $15,000 bonus, his pension would be closer to $14,000.
  • Most of Senator Brown’s 16.5 years of service was time he spent not on the state payroll, but as a town assessor and then selectman in his home town of Wrentham, positions which were not full-time employment and for which he received little pay (a Globe article from last year reported that many towns pay their selectmen in the range of $3000 to $5000 per year). But for the existence of a law allowing such service to be counted toward state pension eligibility, the Senator would not have the 10 years of service required to collect a pension. As it is, he will be receiving more in pension benefits than a person who worked full-time for the state for the same number of years but whose highest 36 months of salary were less than Brown earned as his party’s Third Assistant Majority Leader.

(Cross-posted at Blue Mass Group, here)

Conversations with Charlie About Stuff

(Researched and written while listening to one of the Governor’s blizzard addresses, in which he said “stuff” at least twice. Offered simply as evidence of his curious fondness for the word.)

Q. What’s it like to be involved in a modern political campaign?
A. Campaigns are about many things — slogans, phone calls, fund-raisers, retail campaigning, and more. But, in the end, they are also about acts of God — stuff that happens that no one can predict or control.
(Boston Globe, 9/22/14)

Q. How will you allocate responsibilities between yourself and Lieutenant Governor Polito?
A. Health care is probably going to land in my lap. A lot of development stuff will probably land in hers.
(Boston Globe, 1/30/15)

Q. Do you have a comment on the demonstrators who blocked Interstate 93?
A. These protesters will be dealt with swiftly and appropriately, but public protests are sort of what being an American is all about and I approve of the more peaceful stuff.
(Boston Globe, 1/24/15)

Q. What are your impressions of the Biomanufacturing Education and Training Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute?
A. There is a lot of great stuff going on.
(Worcester Telegram, 1/10/15)

Q. Can you offer the press any information about how you plan to construct your public relations team?
A. I’m sure we’ll have a chance to look at all those issues at a more detailed level in the next couple of weeks. And hopefully you guys will all be there to follow us on all that stuff.
(Boston Herald, 1/8/15)

Q. What do you think of the idea of a corporate tax amnesty program to generate cash for state spending needs?
A. I think the best solution, of course, would be not to have to ever do this stuff, but over time things happen and using this as a vehicle to sort of clean up another backlog is not a bad idea.
(Metrowest Daily News, 12/10/14)

Q. Any progress in your negotiations with the Obama administration about increasing pay for primary care doctors under the Affordable Care Act?
A. Obviously the devil in a lot of this stuff — for them and us — is as we try to shake detail out over time.
(Boston Globe, 12/6/14)

Q. Do you favor funding some portion of our transportation and other needs out of the yearly operating budget instead of paying for them with borrowed funds?
A. We historically borrowed money in Massachusetts to fund a lot of stuff that doesn’t have a 20- or 30-year shelf life. That’s a mistake.
(Springfield Republican, 11/12/14)

Q. Do you have a tendency to become too fixated on particular problems?
A. I tend to get kind of wrapped around the axle about stuff because that’s just the way I’m built.
(Boston Globe, 1/30/15)

Q. How are storm preparations affecting your ability to move forward with a plan to close the budget deficit?
A. It certainly affects the timing on some of this stuff.
(Taunton Gazette, 1/28/15)

Q. What is your motto?
A. Let’s get stuff done.
(Boston Globe, 10/16/14)