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Lines blurry for Cahill ad agent

A top official of Timothy P. Cahill’s campaign for governor worked with the chief executive of a major Boston ad agency to shape a nearly $2 million ad campaign for the state lottery, according to e-mails released by prosecutors at Cahill’s corruption trial on Wednesday.

Prosecutors believe the ­e-mails bolster their case that Cahill, a former state treasurer, conspired to use the publicly funded lottery ads to resuscitate his struggling campaign in 2010. Cahill, who may testify Thursday, contends that the ads were intended only to help the lottery, not his campaign.

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The e-mails released Wednesday were sent between Mike Sheehan, chief executive of Hill Holliday, which was in charge of the lottery ads, and Scott Campbell, a top aide on the Cahill campaign and a co- ­defendant in the case. While the broad themes of their discussions have been known more than a year, Wednesday’s e-mails provided new details of the campaign’s alleged involvement in directing lottery business that, by law, should only be directed by state officials.

Campbell and Sheehan discussed the lottery ads in several exchanges, using their personal e-mail accounts. In one, dated Sept. 7, 2010, Sheehan told Campbell he wanted him to have an “an appropriate comfort level” with the ads and could tweak them as necessary.

“Don’t forget any spot is completely ‘editable,’ ” Sheehan wrote. “If you guys decide the voiceover is too ‘over the top,’ we can tone it down and make it more and more like a traditional permission spot,” jargon for an ad designed to burnish the lottery’s image as a well-run public agency. “That’s the good thing about words.”

A Sheehan spokesman, Will Keyser, said Wednesday that Sheehan sent e-mails about lottery ads to the Cahill campaign as a way to reach Cahill himself, who still had official responsbility for the lottery.

The e-mails showcased the blurry lines between ­Sheehan’s work on the lottery ads and his interest in helping the Cahill campaign. In an ­e-mail dated June 20, 2010, Sheehan told Campbell he had reviewed an ad script and liked it, but believed that, as the ­Cahill campaign “rolls toward November, I think things may have to get a little more bold/controversial/distinctive” and that “every nickel has to pack a punch.”

Internally, Sheehan also solicited advice at Hill Holliday on how to help the Cahill campaign develop ad scripts that would reach “influencers and likely Mass. voters,” according to a May 24 e-mail he sent to a Hill Holliday employee. Hill Holliday was open about its support for Cahill’s campaign, holding a fund-raiser May 19.

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