Bulger is a younger brother of James "Whitey" Bulger, who was among the FBI's most wanted fugitives while Romney was governor.
For years Whitey Bulger had fed the FBI information on his New England Mafia rivals and allegedly got away with murder and other brutal crimes while being protected by a corrupt FBI handler. Whitey Bulger disappeared in 1995. He was caught in Los Angeles a year ago and is awaiting federal trial for his alleged role in 19 murders.
In late 2002, William Bulger invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify before a congressional committee probing the FBI's use of mob informants.
Romney fumed, calling Bulger's reluctance to testify "inappropriate." Bulger finally testified in 2003 after being granted immunity. But Romney said Bulger didn't cooperate enough with the investigation and called him unfit to lead UMass.
Bulger eventually stepped down amid public pressure. Romney never revived his stalled higher education plan.
Romney critics said his attacks on Bulger hurt UMass' reputation. But Republican political analyst Jim Nuzzo said the fight to shake Bulger's hold on UMass paved the way for future changes.
"Bulger symbolized old-style crony politics," Nuzzo said. "Bulger represented everything that had to be changed if we were going to see real change in higher education, and Romney knew that."
Democrats blame Romney for not working harder to lobby lawmakers for his plan, the way he did on his big health care overhaul that laid the groundwork for his 2008 presidential bid. Johnston said that lack of follow-through and attention to policy detail was a Romney trademark.
Republican governors before Romney had worked hard to win compromises with Democratic lawmakers, Johnston said.
"This business is all about relationships," Johnston said, "and he did not have many with the Legislature."
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