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January 07, 2016

Announcing the First Annual Jocelyn Hutt Award for Fraud in Politics! The "Jocey" is offered to the person, corporate or otherwise, whose conduct in deceiving the public in the past year has been exceptionally flagrant.

Jocelyn Hutt was the politically uninterested citizen who somehow formed the Boston One PAC in 2013 and then ran $480,000 in television ads in favor of Marty Walsh for Mayor of Boston. But Hutt and One Boston were just a dark money front for the American Federation of Teachers. So this award really should have inaugurated in 2013 with Hutt and AFT as co-winners. I hope the naming of this prize is some solace.

In a political year that saw the rise of Donald Trump, the winner might seem obvious. Trump has already won Politifact’s Lie of the Year. Only 1% of Trump’s statements were judged true, and 22% were deemed “Pants on Fire.” Trump repeatedly swore that he had seen American Muslims joyously celebrating the 9/11 tragedy, an event that never occurred. But then there was Hillary Clinton’s statement that ISIS is using Trump’s anti-Muslim video rants as a recruiting tool, which Politifact also rated “False.” So I am thinking of a separate award for Politically Useful but Non-Existent Muslims: The Trump-Clinton Prize.

The Hutt Award has local roots so I considered a story in the Boston Globe about the Massachusetts Republican Party making its final $215,000 payment to Mark Fisher, to settle the lawsuit over denying him ballot access in 2014:

[GOP Spokesman Terry] MacCormack also said the state party would not make public the list of the donors who financed the final settlement payment to Fisher. The Republican State Committee Legal Defense Fund can accept unlimited donations and is not required to list its expenditures.

It was tough to pass that one up; dark money is at the dark heart of the Hutt Award.

But after thoughtful deliberation, the 2015 Jocelyn Hutt Award for Fraud in Politics goes to the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance for its phony Fraud by Poll about Governor Charlie Baker’s MBTA reform proposal. MFA is a 501(c)(4)  organization. That’s a legal fig leaf that allows the group to collect unlimited money without disclosing donors, so the dark money angle is covered. I also concluded that

a “poll” was conducted by an unidentified pollster, contrary to AAPOR (American Association for Public Opinion Research) best practices, with one weighted question, by a less trustworthy method, commissioned by a political organization with hidden funding.

I try to be scrupulously fair before handing out a prestigious prize like the Hutt Award so back on June 16 I offered MFA a way to prove me wrong, by revealing basic information like the pollster’s identity and its methodology, and the original funding source of the poll – not MFA, but who funds MFA. But I’ve never heard back from them.

So far as it appears, the Mass Fiscal folks might have circle dialed each other 13,000 times. So for passing off their poll as a legitimate scientific survey of public opinion, the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance is the 2015 winner of the First Annual Jocelyn Hutt Award for Fraud in Politics.

MFA represents everything wrong with American politics - the casual use of false and misleading arguments, greed, dark money. It is a worthy recipient of the inaugural Hutt Award.

Congratulations to Mass Fiscal! Just contact us at MassPoliticsProfs and we’ll arrange for a trophy, or maybe a plaque.

Fiscal, Alliance, Massachusetts

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