MA. Senator Cynthia Creem’s Conflict of Interest – The Continuing Saga

Recently, the Fathers and Families website ran a “point/counterpoint” between Massachusetts Senator Cynthia Creem and Fathers and Families Board Member Ned Holstein. Now here’s a good letter to the editor following up on that tête-à-tête. (Wicked Local, 9/13/10).

Senator Creem is co-chairperson of the Judiciary Committee; she’s also an attorney who practices family law. Wearing her senator’s hat and her co-chair hat, she’s uniquely placed to help or hinder legislation that affects family law in the Bay State. That legislation in turn can have an enormous impact on her earnings in her private law practice. Senator Creem therefore has a rather obvious conflict of interest when bills come before the Judiciary Committee that affect her law practice.

Creem has denied that she has a conflict of interest. Her defense is that she’s never been found guilty of same, never been censured by any ethics committee, etc., all of which is perfectly true. But we know how effectively elected officials police the ethics of other elected officials. Short of actually keeping large sums of bribe money in your freezer the way U.S. Congressman William Jefferson did, you’re probably home free. It’s hard for the club to take action against a member.

And, as so many people said about the financial meltdown in 2008, the problem is not that what the investment bankers did violated the law, it’s that it didn’t violate the law. That is, the regulations were so filled with holes that actions that weren’t illegal but should have been brought the system of finance to its knees.

And so it is with Creem and her conflict of interest; no, she hasn’t actually been convicted of anything, but face it, the fox is guarding the henhouse. Cynthia Creem wants us to believe that she would never, never use her position of power to influence legislation on the very family law matters that fatten her wallet. Well, as someone once said, “you may be able to fool yourself, but you can’t fool me.”

Still, it’s theoretically possible that Creem’s record gives the lie to the conflict of interest charge. So let’s look at her record which she herself cites as proof of her commitment to family law reform. So far it seems to consist of a bill that would change the terminology of family laws to dispense with words like “visitor” and emphasize concepts like parental responsibilities. Forgive me if I remain unimpressed.

Creem claims to be acting always in “the best interests of the child.” But she supports a system of child custody that awards primary custody on the basis of sex. Nationwide, mothers receive primary custody 84% of the time according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And that comes in the face of studies that show that the sex of the parent is no predictor of the well being of the child. As researcher Dr. Paul Millar has said, a judiciary that awards custody overwhelmingly to parents of a single sex “cannot be said to be acting in children’s best interests.”

But it is that very system of anti-father discrimination that divorce lawyer/Judiciary Committee co-chairperson Cynthia Creem sees no reason to interfere with. As the linked-to letter asks,

So does Senator Creem disclose in writing to her male clients going for joint physical custody for their children that she publicly opposes joint shared custody? Does the senator disclose in writing to the opposite sides clients that she is co-chair of the Judiciary Committee and that it might influence the ruling that the judge might make for fear of retribution by her committee that oversees the courts?

I think we all know the answers.

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