It's been fascinating to watch the political ricochets set in motion by the defection of Tim Cahill's running mate on October 1. When it first happened, Paul Loscocco's decision to quit and endorse Republican Paul Baker looked like a crippling blow to Cahill's independent campaign. Then the media started lavishing sympathy on Cahill, and Cahill sued the ex-aides who had masterminded Loscocco's departure -- while providing some pretty damning email evidence to back up his allegations of bad faith. At that point, Cahill looked a genuine victim, and his campaign seemed rejuvenated.
On Wednesday, the narrative changed again, radically. I was in Norfolk Superior Court when Judge E. Susan Garsh issued a ruling that both sides claimed as a victory. By next Monday, three of Cahill's ex-aides need to produce sworn affidavits detailing confidential information they've received from the Cahill campaign -- but the Cahill campaign's request to conduct emergency depositions of the ex-aides was denied.
Even though Cahill's attorney spun Wednesday's outcome as a victory, it was flat-out horrible for the candidate himself. That's because Judge Garsh also allowed the release of electronic communications which suggest quite strongly that Cahill broached the wall that's supposed to separate his gubernatorial campaign from his work as state treasurer. Here, for example, is part of a text-message exchange between Cahill's campaign consultant Dane Strother and his former campaign manager, Adam Meldrum, on July 27:
Strother: I just got the go ahead on everything we discussed. Yes on lottery ads and he has plenty of money. Yes on stepped up fundraising. Yes on going negative.
Strother: Need to know the pollsters name and how much money the lottery has to spend. Cahill thinks most of the two million is there....
Strother: [W]e run ads about the lottery being well run and putting money back in the communities. I am going to speak to the ad company about copy cahill agreed
This isn't the only evidence that the Treasury/campaign wall was meaningless in Cahill's operation. As State House News Service has reported, for example, Treasury staff apparently sought guidance from the campaign on how to handle the state's holdings in BP following that catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And the Herald notes that Katherine Craven, who runs the Treasury's School Building Assistance Program, whipped up Cahill's talking points on healthcare.
What makes all of this especially damaging is that Cahill and his Treasury colleagues have adamantly denied that any inappropriate collusion occurred. Last Friday, Lottery executive director Mark Cavanagh told the AP, "[T]here was absolutely no conversation, or whatever the insinuation was, between the campaign and the lottery." And yesterday, when WBUR's Bob Oakes asked Cahill if he would release any communications between the lottery and his campaign that show the two worked together on those new ads for the state lottery -- Cahill answered that no such communications exist. (Go to Part I, 23:20.)
If you're a Cahill partisan, you might object that the conversation I mentioned above took place between two campaign operatives, not between the Treasury and the campaign. Fine. But it also suggests Cahill gave one of his campaign operatives the go-ahead to shape the Lottery's new ad in a way that would advance Cahill's gubernatorial hopes. Given that, Cahill's denial yesterday -- and any comparable denials by campaign or Treasury staffers -- strikes me as deeply dishonest.
This story could still take another twist. Maybe the sworn affidavits from those ex-Cahill aides will put Baker's campaign in a negative spotlight yet again. Or maybe Loscocco will back up his still-unsubstantiated claim that Cahill and Patrick's campaigns were colluding with each other, and the Democratic Governors Association, to take Baker down.
For now, though, it's awfully hard to have any sympathy whatsoever for Cahill. And it's easier than ever to imagine him and Jill Stein vying for third place on election night.
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