After the announcement of his mistrial yesterday, former state treasurer Tim Cahill proclaimed it to be a “total vindication.” It was not. And while Attorney General Martha Coakley weighs whether to retry Cahill — a decision that should be based on her assessment of the likelihood of success — Cahill’s defenders will be tempted to take aim at the law under which he was charged, renewing their claim that he was accused of nothing more than Massachusetts politics as usual. He was not.
Cahill’s prosecution has been viewed as a test not only of his stewardship of public resources, but also of the 2009 law imposing criminal penalties on officials who use public resources for private political ends. As his gubernatorial campaign was foundering in 2010, Cahill approved an odd $1.5 million publicity campaign touting sound management at the state Lottery, which he oversaw. There were telling electronic messages between Cahill’s campaign operatives and the ad agency working on the campaign.