BY INDICTING former state treasurer Tim Cahill on corruption charges Monday, a Suffolk County grand jury took an aggressive, and welcome, posture toward the possible use of public money to bolster an elected official’s political position. The treasurer’s office has enormous discretionary power over a number of complex, high-dollar areas of state policy, from the pension system to the state Lottery to various obscure contracts. In seeking the indictment against Cahill, Attorney General Martha Coakley is rightly asserting that some uses of that discretion represent clear violations of the public trust.
The public corruption, fraud, and conspiracy charges against Cahill grow out of the Lottery’s decision to spend upwards of $1.6 million on an advertising blitz at the height of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. At the time, Cahill was challenging Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick as an independent, and he was under heavy attack by Republicans who viewed his candidacy as a potential spoiler. And in August of that year, the Lottery shifted its marketing strategy away from pitching individual games to players and toward touting the agency as a well-managed source of revenues for cities and towns.