Saturday, July 10, 2010

Globe: Coakley, Greatest Loser

Globe columnist Adrian Walker:

"Six months ago Martha Coakley was one of the most famous politicians in America for a few agonizing and awkward weeks. Her loss to Scott Brown catapulted him to cover boy status, while people wondered what on earth could be next for the suddenly toxic attorney general.

This week furnished some answers. First, Coakley’s office reached a $102 million settlement with Morgan Stanley, after accusing the Wall Street giant of unscrupulous mortgage lending. On Thursday, US District Judge Joseph L. Tauro struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, partly as a result of a suit filed by Coakley’s office.

She also went public with some tough questions about Cape Wind and has the final call on whether a New York investment firm can scarf up the Caritas Christi hospital chain. . .

Yesterday, Coakley, with her usual calm, noted that the failures of her Senate campaign had nothing to do with her service as attorney general.

. . .

While Brown became a national celebrity, Coakley simply went back to work. “It’s great to be back working,’’ she said, “especially when we get these kinds of results.’’

The settlement with Morgan Stanley was the latest — and by far the most successful — of several suits against companies that contributed to the subprime mortgage mess. Morgan backed bad loans by a company called New Century, on which many homeowners defaulted. Coakley successfully argued that the loans violated basic guidelines and that the homeowners had been sold loans they clearly could not pay back. About $58 million will go to beleaguered subprime borrowers.

“I think we were able to shed a little bit of light on the way they operated,’’ Coakley said.

Of course, the fight against the Defense of Marriage Act strikes close to home to many in Massachusetts. In essence, the battle is over whether married gay couples are entitled to the same federal benefits as other married couples.

Coakley’s challenge followed one by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. She was approached by GLAD after it filed suit and invited to play a role, which grew into filing a separate lawsuit.

“We thought it was an uphill battle, but we made a strong argument that the burden in terms of Massachusetts was unconstitutional,’’ Coakley said.

Many observers believe that Tauro’s ruling, which is certain to be appealed, will have little immediate impact. Coakley, however, chooses to take a longer view.

“If you’re a student of constitutional history, you see that changes that are dramatic rarely happen overnight,’’ she said. “There are steps forward and some steps backward. But this is a big step forward for all Massachusetts married couples.’’

For all the scorn heaped on Coakley after the Senate campaign, she is unopposed in her bid for reelection, as the predicted crowd of opponents never materialized.

If she has hit a political glass ceiling, it is in a job she clearly loves.

“We were able to make a little bit of progress in the area of civil rights and able to make life a little better for the people of Massachusetts,’’ Coakley said.

Full story here.

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