Saving Stan Rosenberg is the kind of terrible idea that could only gain traction in the insular world of the State House.
In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against the husband of the beleaguered Massachusetts Senate president that have sparked multiple ongoing investigations, some senators have rallied around a cause: saving Rosenberg’s presidency.
After multiple men came forward to accuse Bryon Hefner of misconduct, Rosenberg took a leave of absence from the gavel. Rosenberg didn’t really have a choice — he couldn’t remain in power while a subject of investigation by his peers and colleagues.
Generally, once the phrases “Ethics Commission” and “Senate president’’ start to be tossed around in the same sentences, things are not headed in a good direction. But right from the start, there was an undercurrent that none of Hefner’s allegedly nefarious — quite possibly illegal — behavior really reflected on Rosenberg, or his ability to lead the Senate.
A column by my colleague Yvonne Abraham this week exploded the myth that Rosenberg was an innocent bystander. Abraham reported that, at Rosenberg’s direction, Hefner had been granted full access to Rosenberg’s e-mail and calendar. Hefner proceeded to meddle in Senate business — even though he had been elected to nothing.
This was not the first, or second, time Hefner had emerged as a lightning rod. When Rosenberg became president in 2014, Hefner sparked controversy by seeking to involve himself in Senate business. Back then, Rosenberg declared that he had made it clear to his then-fiance that he was not to be involved in Senate business. He wrote a note to his Democratic colleagues declaring that he was enforcing a “firewall” between his private life and the business of the Senate, and would continue to do so.
That firewall was an excellent idea, which is why it’s a shame it never became reality. Instead, Hefner has urged senators to support funding for a program he favored in the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps — which employed him at the time. The popular measure — which probably never needed Hefner’s lobbying — was funded. A few months later, Hefner tried unsuccessfully to kill the same earmark, according to a senior Beacon Hill official.
That is not a person who should be inviting himself to help run the state Senate.
The madness didn’t stop there. Wielding the power of his proximity to Rosenberg, Hefner railed against lobbyists and state senators, berated staff members, and claimed that he had urged Rosenberg to kick a senator out of leadership because she was supposedly too ambitious.
Imagine serving in a Senate where the president’s spouse has free rein to lobby for initiatives, or go on the attack against other senators. Now imagine that the same spouse is also facing credible allegations of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault.
How does a Senate president allow this to happen? And how is it possible that he owns none of it?
Look, I get why people like Rosenberg. He’s smart, thoughtful — about issues other than himself — and keenly in tune with the leftward leanings of the Senate.
But this isn’t just about affection. Senators — many of them, anyway — also seem to have made the calculation that there is no real price to pay for propping up their beleaguered leader. That is where they are incredibly misguided.
By abetting Hefner’s sweeping misconduct, Rosenberg has displayed none of the judgment his job requires. By failing to enforce the boundaries he declared, he has proven his declarations meaningless. And by standing by him, his colleagues have opted for personal influence and expediency over ethical and effective government.
It’s all completely unacceptable. His colleagues are only making a mockery of the institution they claim to revere.
For the good of the Senate — and more importantly, the good of Massachusetts — Stan Rosenberg has to resign from the Senate. Now.Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: adrian_walker.