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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Upon further review

Maybe Martha Coakley didn't really botch her first really high profile political corruption case.

That certainly has been the popular viewpoint as the trial of former Treasurer Tim Cahill made its sleepy way through November. As prosecutors methodically laid out their case, some political observers yawned; others ignored it completely.

Count Cahill's defense team among the yawners. Putting their client on the stand to defend himself can be seen as the ultimate sign of confidence in your chances. And in his first day of testimony, Cahill did nothing to change that thought.

But it appears Coakley's team saved their best for last.

For those of us who may have forgotten, Cahill is accused of using public funds, in the form of Lottery advertising dollars, to finance commercials touting the benefits of state-sponsored games of chance. The ads never mentioned Treasurer Tim, but they aired while he was under fierce assault by the Republican Governors Association for his independent gubernatorial bid.

Under the cliched "withering" cross-examination Cahill was forced to admit that his campaign indeed had direct talks with the advertising firm that was preparing the commercials.

One day after a campaign focus group determined that association with the Lottery would be a plus for Cahill, campaign consultant Dane Strother got marching orders from Cahill to talk with Hill Holliday CEO Mike Sheehan about how to spend the Lottery's $2 million in advertising dollars. Strother then followed up by text with campaign manager Adam Meldrum:
"I just got the go-ahead on everything we discussed,” Strother wrote. “Yes, on the lottery ads, and he has plenty of money. Cahill thinks most of $2 million is there. We just found a million for extra publicity, but Cahill can’t be in the ad. But we run ads about the lottery being well run and putting money back in communities. I’m going to speak with an ad company about copy. Cahill agreed.”
Cahill then got personally involved and agreed to a plan where the ads would run until Nov. 4, two days after the election.

Former Treasurer Tim insisted under cross-examination that everything was on the up and up and Strother was just doing research to make sure everything was factual. But the scenario laid out by prosecutors begs the question:

If this was a true Lottery ad campaign, why weren't the folks in the treasurer's office involved in the efforts as opposed to those in the campaign?

That question does not appear to be asked -- or answered. But it stands out as the crux of the prosecution case and one Cahill's attorneys will need to provide a plausible answer to as the fight off Coakley's late-game touchdown pass.

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