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Former AG Tom Reilly, a Coakley supporter, defends Baker on ‘outsourcing’

Former Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly is supporting fellow Democrat Martha Coakley for governor. But he is none too pleased with her latest attack on Republican Charlie Baker.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Reilly said of Coakley’s claims that Baker outsourced jobs as chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim. “This is exactly the kind of nonsense that drives people away from the political process.”

As attorney general, Reilly went to court in January 2000 to place Harvard Pilgrim, then on the brink of financial ruin, in receivership. He says he worked closely with Baker in the weeks that followed to save the company.

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By that point, Harvard Pilgrim had already contracted with Perot Systems to take over a beleaguered information technology and claims system. And in 2006, Perot moved some of the work overseas to India.

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Baker later won an “Outsourcing Excellence Award” from the Outsourcing Center, an industry group. On Tuesday, the Coakley campaign circulated a photograph of Baker accepting the 2008 award, in a tuxedo.

Reilly said Wednesday that Perot Systems’ work was critical to Harvard Pilgrim’s survival. “I’m not a technology guy,” he said. “But I understood enough to know that if the IT didn’t get fixed, the company was gone.”

The collapse of Harvard Pilgrim, he said, could have threatened the state’s healthcare system. The insurer had more than 1 million members at the time.

“I’m not going to sit back and let anyone tarnish what we accomplished,” Reilly said.

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Coakley’s campaign emphasized that the outsourcing to India came several years after the turnaround was complete.

“The simple fact is that Charlie Baker outsourced 200 jobs of Massachusetts workers to India in 2006, well after the company was in receivership in 2000,” said campaign spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin, in a statement. “Charlie’s decision had nothing to do with saving the company, it had to do with putting bottom line profits over the welfare of workers and families in Massachusetts.”

But Baker’s campaign says it was Perot that shipped jobs overseas and that it’s unclear any Massachusetts workers on the Harvard Pilgrim account lost their jobs as a result.

Reilly declined to personally criticize Coakley Wednesday, saying she is a “terrific” candidate and pledging to continue his support for her candidacy.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg@globe.com.