April 4, 2012
BOSTON — The parade of Massachusetts politicians charged with corruption continues. On April 4, former state Treasurer Tim Cahill was arraigned on charges that he spent $1.6 million in public funds to bolster his failed 2010 candidacy for governor. Cahill said he’s not guilty and that legal precedent is on his side — but that claim may be debatable.
When Cahill entered Suffolk Superior Court, he looked like another businessman heading for the office. A few minutes later, as the charges against Cahill were read, his responses were crisp: "Not guilty."
Outside the court, though, he was self-deprecating and even a bit shaky, apologizing for reading his statement and saying "I've been out of practice" addressing the press.
The bottom line: He’s been unjustly accused.
"Today is the beginning of a long process that will result in the end in my name being cleared and my reputation being restored. No one did anything wrong," he said.
Attorney General Martha Coakley said on April 2 that when Cahill ran for governor as an independent in 2010, he ran a lottery ad that was really a campaign commercial. But Cahill said Wednesday that he had to respond after a Republican group hammered his management of the lottery.
"After months of attack on TV and radio by the [Republican Governors Association], most of which attacked the integrity of the lottery, a decision was made to rerun an ad made in the past specifically designed to combat negative perceptions of the lottery—to give people, in effect, permission to play," he said.
In fact, he said, not running the ads would have been a choice to benefit his campaign: "The decision to run those ads was the right thing to do for the lottery. To act contrary to that interest and not run the ads would have put my own political interest ahead of the interest of the lottery and the cities and towns that depend on it."
Cahill’s attorney Peter Parker was by his side. He argued that the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance has said it’s OK for elected officials officials to use taxpayer money to respond to attacks on their record.
"According to guidance given by the OCPF what Treasurer Cahill did was legal," Parker said.
But those same guidelines also say that when the primary purpose is political, spending taxpayer money is verboten. If prosecutors can show Cahill was selling himself instead of the lottery, he could be facing jail time. His trial is scheduled to start on Sept. 26.
IS THE PUBLIC FED UP?