After eight terms in the House of Representatives, John Tierney should have settled into a safe Massachusetts district with many easy reelection races ahead. Unfortunately, that changed in 2010 for Tierney.
In 2010, Tierney’s wife was sentenced to 30 days in jail for filing false income tax returns for her brothers. Her brothers were operating an illegal gambling operation out of Antigua. One was sentenced while the other remains a fugitive.
The prosecutions stemmed from a dubious 2006 anti-gambling law that prohibit the transfer of funds from American banking accounts to be used for internet gambling.
However, this isn’t about gambling or even what Tierney knew or didn’t know about the doings of his wife and brothers-in-law. It is about Tierney refusing to discuss the issue.
Tierney is in a closer race than he was in 2010 when he won with 57% of the vote, down from his previous high of 71%.
Tierney has laid out debate rules for his opponent Richard Tisei that prevent any questions about Tierney’s wife and her family’s criminal activities.
There is irony in this position because Tierney has carved out a reputation as being a proponent of government oversight. Oversight involves transparency, something Tierney is refusing to allow in his political career.
It is true that Tierney was not charged in any of the illegal activities. With the issue having arisen two years ago and Tierney being reelected, it would appear that the voters have spoken and it can be archived as a campaign issue.
However, bad blood between Tierney and his brother-in-law Daniel Eremian has reignited it as an issue that Tisei is pursuing in a massive attack ad campaign.
Earlier this year, Daniel Eremian claimed that Tierney knew of the gambling activities. As he mentioned to the Boston Globe:
“He threw my sister under the bus for his political career. He made her plead guilty because he was afraid of an Ethics Committee investigation, and he knew he couldn’t lie in front of the committee.”
Tierney and his wife responded by calling Eremian’s words part of a “family grudge.” Back in 2010, Tierney’s wife initially claimed that she was innocent. Tierney stated back then that his wife’s “trust in her brother had been misplaced.” Although those words were specifically directed at the other brother, Robert, in the context of her innocence claim it also applies to Daniel Eremian.
The point here is that if Tierney has nothing to hide, then he should bring it into the open. An open political process does not work by keeping things shrouded or ignored. That is what Tierney is trying to do. He is hoping that if he wins election again, then come 2014 this will finally be an old campaign issue. The problem with that is that the voters will still not have seen the issue put to rest.
Tierney wants to debate only the issues, but politics is not just about the issues. If that were the case, Richard Nixon never would have resigned. Law and character also play a role. Perhaps Tierney is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. If so, then he is making some foolish mistakes in campaign strategy. His reluctance to address the issue keeps it alive and raises questions about what he really knows.