“If I only had a brain,” sang the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Massachusetts Republicans can grok on that lament, even if they can’t figure out that their support for Trumpism is politically suicidal here.

But it’s starting to look like they might have been handed something nearly as good – an issue they can use to help exhume the carcass of their party from the grave.

That would be State Auditor Diana DiZoglio’s push – via both a lawsuit and an initiative petition drive – to force the Legislature to cooperate with a full audit of their books and internal practices. According to multiple accounts, DiZoglio was the toast of the state Democratic Party’s midterm convention last weekend, delivering a warmly-received pitch for her audit that moved one onlooker to describe her as a “Robin Hood figure,” according to the State House News Service.

It’s a branding Democrats usually crave. So why was Democratic Party Chair Steve Kerrigan casting DiZoglio’s crusade as a danger to the party during a pre-convention WBZ-TV interview?

While insisting the party is “not a policymaking body,” Kerrigan repeated the spin propagated by legislative leaders that the annual once-over of the Legislature’s accounts by an outside accounting firm is adequate. And in the wake of a ringing endorsement of DiZoglio’s effort by state GOP Chair Amy Carnevale, the ever-genial Kerrigan’s brow managed a frown line when we asked about Politico’s recent report that major local GOP donors Rick Green and Ernie Boch Jr. have cut fat checks to the petition drive, $10,000 and $25,000 respectively.

“I’ve not known those two to fund efforts that they think are just purely for transparency sake,” he said. They’re “trying to take out Democrats in the Legislature and we’ll do everything we can to push back against the work that those two and the state Republican Party are doing. We’re not looking to work with them to help defeat our own members.”

Responds DiZoglio: “The Democrats are clearly leading the charge on this effort, as you saw at convention. Of course people of all political stripes are joining this worthy cause. It’s only a few powerful Beacon Hill insiders who oppose this effort and I hope Mr. Chairman decides to support the will of the people in our party by publicly expressing support for this initiative.”


Meanwhile, DiZoglio seems in her element. “I invite Mr. Chairman to come out with me in the coming weeks to help collect signatures as we could really use his support to ensure this gets on the ballot,” she snarks.

House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka’s distaste for DiZoglio is no secret and predates this skirmish. They have their reasons, and with the public expressing historically high approval for the Legislature in recent years, they may feel they have the standing to snuff out her movement.

But if that’s so, why is the normally unflappable Kerrigan so touchy about it? And if DiZoglio’s audit is such gratuitous grandstanding, why not call her bluff and go along with it? Especially if there’s real concern the ballot question might endanger incumbent Democrats who feel compelled to oppose it?

Or, as Ernie Boch Jr. might put it: “Come on down!”

Jon Keller has been reporting and commenting on local politics since 1978. A graduate of Brandeis University, he worked in radio as a producer and talk-show host before moving into print journalism at The Tab newspapers and the Boston Phoenix. Freelance credits include the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Boston Magazine, the New Republic and the Washington Post. Since 1991 his "Keller At Large" commentaries and interviews have been a fixture on Boston TV, first on WLVI-TV and, since 2005, on WBZ-TV. He is a 12-time Emmy Award winner for political reporting and commentary. He began his Massterlist column in March 2020.