John Tierney faces new campaign challenge

Suddenly there’s breath on the mirror for Bill Hudak’s congressional campaign against John Tierney. How much is not yet clear. Tierney’s wife, Patrice, pled guilty yesterday to federal charges, four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns by her brother, Robert Eremian of St. John’s, Antigua. Eremanian had pled guilty in 2002 to federal tax evasion charges in connection with illegal gambling and was on probation. The next year, he sought and obtained approval from a judge and his probation officer to move to Antigua because he told them he was securing work in a legal industry. Supposedly he was to sell software to a legal online sports gambling business, and he would be sending money from “commissions” to the Bank of America account that Patrice Tierney would manage for his family.

In 2004, she agreed to handle her brother’s personal payments here, including his three teenage children’s living expenses, care of their aging mother , and her brother’s income taxes. She was not involved in her brother’s business and was not paid for any of her services. Her mistake according to the Globe, was taking her brother’s word that the money she was handling came from legal sales commissions rather than illicit gambling. That means that she had signed her brother’s tax returns claiming they were from one (legal) source of income rather than from the real, illegal source.

Nowhere do prosecutors say that either Patrice or John Tierney benefited from her role handling her brother’s affairs.

According to a statement from John Tierney, his wife was “ devastated to learn that her brother might have deceived her and so many others…., Patrice has acknowledged and agreed that she should have done more to personally investigate the true nature of Mr. Eremian’s business activities in the course of carrying out his requests to pay his bills.” Given Eremian’s track record, her failure to probe deeper into brother’s source of income, is stupefying. Federal prosecutors call it a “conscious course of deliberate ignorance.”

But if  Patrice Tierney can be guilty of “willful blindness,” what about judge and probation officer who, after Robert Eremian was convicted in 2002, believed that he was going to Antigua to work lawfully as a computer consultant to the gambling industry? Did their green light give her a reasonable basis to play bookkeeper? Illegal gambling seems to have been a family business for the two brothers, their father and Patrice Tierney’s son from a previous marriage, who lived elsewhere. Just last August, Brother Robert and another brother, Daniel, were indicted for racketeering, illegal gambling, and money laundering. According to prosecutors, Robert Eremian remains a fugitive.

“Conscious course of deliberate ignorance.” From the outside, one thinks there must have been red flags. But, if Patrice Tierney really was in denial, there are probably plenty of people from dysfunctional families, siblings coping with black sheep family members, who will be most sympathetic to the fix she finds herself in. However, her not suspecting something strains credulity.

The question for the sixth district electorate is how well Congressman Tierney can separate himself from his wife’s guilty plea. It should be noted that none of the charges out of the U.S. Attorney’s office implicates the Congressman. There are plenty of questions about “what did he know, and when did he know it.” He is on the phone speaking to reporters. The public would benefit from a press conference to field their questions.

Politically, the timing couldn’t be worse for John Tierney, who had been cruising to victory. His statement says he stands by Patrice “in this difficult time. As she moves on with her life, she continues to be the primary caregiver to her own mother; a loving wife, mother and grandmother to her family; and a friend to the hundreds who know her.”

He will be helped by his opponent’s terrible reputation and outlier positions. Bill Hudak’s “birther” charges that Obama was not born here, his hatefully putting a turban on an Obama picture and calling him Osama, have won him a reputation as a right-wing nut.

Blogger Garrett Quinn says Patrice Tierney’s transgression is worse than Hudak’s lawn signs. The blog asserts that “When you Google “Hudak”, “birther” is one of the terms that comes up next to his name, which is bad but not as bad as “illegal gambling”, “false tax returns”, and “aiding and abetting”. But those terms don’t come up with John Tierney’s name.He has been accused and convicted of nothing illegal.

Notably, the Salem News says Patrice’s ex-husband, Alan Chew,  describes her as a “great lady” and her brother, as “not a very nice guy.”

Right now, many comments in the blogosphere are particularly vicious. For Republicans, hungry for a once unwinnable seat, Patrice Tierney’s guilty plea is blood in the water. Look for lots of unrestricted, unidentified negative advertising money to follow the blood. This race will likely get ugly fast and voters will need to do serious fact checking

And it is noteworthy that, according to MassInc polling, 40 percent of the likely electorate here view the Tea Party favorably. The poll didn’t break down by congressional district. But it means that, while Tea Party choice Hudak may remain a fringe candidate, those who might vote for him are not necessarily fringe. http://www.massincpolling.com/ This setback for Tierney cannot be easily dismissed.

I like John Tierney. My hope is that, if nothing else comes out, when voters go into the booth on November 2nd, they’ll remember his steadfast support of a middle class agenda, job creation, education, human services, getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and they’ll pull the lever for him, not necessarily with a sense of compassion for the family mess his wife is in, and not necessarily in appreciation of his contributions to the district and to Massachusetts, but with an unsentimental and and a clear recognition that he would be a much better congressman than his opponent.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below

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