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The Boston Globe

Special Reports

Oct. 15, 2010

Cahill’s losing lottery ticket

Editor’s Note: This column originally ran in the Boston Globe on Oct. 15, 2010.

EXCUSE ME, Treasurer Tim?

I think your pants are on fire.

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The e-mail trail that was front-page news yesterday sure makes it seem like your campaign was coordinating with lottery officials to use that agency’s advertising dollars to boost your gubernatorial hopes. Now, Attorney General Martha Coakley is taking a look.

That, of course, is something you’ve denied since former aides started bruiting the accusation about.

Why, a few hours before those e-mails became public, you dismissed the notion during a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce candidates’ forum. Asked if you would release any communications between the lottery and your campaign related to possible collusion, you replied: “If there were any, we’d absolutely release them, but there aren’t any.”

Technically, the e-mails made public in court proceedings were not between the lottery and your campaign, but they certainly show a campaign team doing its best to exploit the lottery to help your cause.

As such, they backstop former campaign manager Adam Meldrum’s sworn statement that there was coordination between you and your campaign team regarding lottery “TV ads which may benefit the campaign,” as well as coordination between your campaign and the lottery or its vendors.

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Your (reconfigured) campaign initially dismissed the e-mails as “nothing more than chatter between campaign consultants.” Yesterday, you said you weren’t “paying attention to what the campaign staff was talking about,” according to WBZ-TV, and contended that “it had no impact on what I did.”

Sorry, Tim, but it’s hard to see how that squares with the July 27 e-mail from campaign adviser Dane Strother to other members of your campaign. Titled “What I helped get done with him today” - the “him” being an obvious reference to you - Strother’s e-mail list begins this way: “Get the lottery immediately cutting a spot and get it up.” He also wrote of using the Treasury’s abandoned property publicity account to run radio ads to help you.

Here’s the irony. At the Wednesday chamber forum, you said you filed that lawsuit “to bring transparency” to this campaign. That it has done - but not in the way you intended.

So am I surprised? Not a bit. The only thing that momentarily puzzled me is that you’d file the lawsuit in the first place, given the obvious possibility that such an e-mail trail would surface. But then a possible explanation occurred to me: You’re an old style Massachusetts pol, one schooled in the communications counsel of legendary West End political boss Martin Lomasney: “Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink.” And, if he were alive today, Lomasney would no doubt add: Above all, never e-mail or text.

That a-wink-and-a-nod way is in your very bones, so you never imagined anyone would be so dunderheaded as to put something like this in writing. But alas, you hired a political team that hadn’t internalized the Lomasney method. Creatures of the e-mail age, they’re used to firing off messages at every free moment. And so, your lawsuit against them has circled back to bite you in the butt.

I don’t see a smoking gun with Republican nominee Charlie Baker, whose campaign you contend has received your voting lists from the defectors. Not yet, anyway. Still, this whole extended imbroglio has muddied him up some.

He blundered badly by appearing with Paul Loscocco to accept his endorsement (”Lilliputians for Baker”). And as my colleague Joan Vennochi has illuminated, Baker’s efforts to raise money for the Republican Governors Association even as the RGA was targeting you - an attack he insisted he had no control over - has scuffed up his image.

So here’s my damage report, Tim. Your political hopes were already endangered; now they’re extinct.

Baker, meanwhile, is left looking like a hypocritical practitioner of hard-ball politics.

And Governor Patrick? So far, he’s managed to stay above this off-putting fray.

What does all of that tell you? Strange as it may seem, there are sometimes benefits to being a political gentleman. Even here in sharp-elbowed Massachusetts.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com.

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