The twisting Massachusetts governor's race took another turn Wednesday, when a court released e-mails appearing to buttress claims that government workers were doing political work on taxpayer time in an effort to boost the lagging campaign of independent candidate Timothy Cahill.
The e-mails were released in conjunction with a lawsuit Cahill himself filed against four former aides, all of whom quit his campaign after they said he could no longer win. Cahill claims they conspired to boost the candidacy of Republican rival Charles Baker, and even engineered the resignation of his former running mate two weeks ago.
But one of those aides, former campaign manager Adam Meldrum, said the lawsuit was merely an attempt to prevent him from playing whistle blower. He said he planned to expose activity that could violate state ethics and campaign finance laws, activity he planned to ask state Attorney General Martha Coakley to investigate.
Cahill and Baker are challenging Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, though they stand to split the anti-incumbent vote. A fourth candidate, Jill Stein of the Green-Rainbow Party, is also on the ballot Nov. 2.
In a series of rulings, Norfolk Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh granted Cahill's request for an injunction barring the former aides from distributing confidential campaign materials.
She also ruled the ex-aides must submit affidavits - under oath - by Monday explaining whether they've given any of that information to other parties, including the Republican Governors Association and the Baker campaign.
But Garsh also released an affidavit Meldrum filed in an unsuccessful attempt to quash the injunction.
Attached were a series of e-mails appearing to show coordination between Cahill's campaign and staff at the state treasury, which he still oversees as state treasurer. They also appear to show an effort by the campaign to have the Massachusetts Lottery, which the treasurer oversees, air a series of government-paid television ads that laud the lottery's management.
They started running last month and will continue through Election Day.
In one July e-mail, Cahill campaign media strategist Dane Strother wrote Meldrum: "Get the Lottery immediately cutting a spot and get it up." He added: "Needs to focus on the Lottery being the best in the country and above reproach."
In another e-mail two days later, Cahill senior adviser Scott Campbell wrote, "I'll check. I think the first thing is to figure out what/where/how we want to do this ... with Lottery people."
The bulk of the remaining exhibits attached to Meldrum's filing are e-mails written by Treasury Chief of Staff Christopher Bell, First Deputy Treasurer Grace Lee, Treasury Communications Director David Kibbe, Massachusetts School Building Authority Executive Director Katherine Craven and other government employees using Gmail and similar private e-mail services to communicate with the campaign during business hours.
Recently, The Associated Press observed Lee and Kibbe at campaign events during business hours, but they explained they were on personal leave time.
In addition, the affidavit includes screen shots of campaign documents showing they were created on treasury computers.
In a statement, Cahill Communications Director Amy Birmingham called the rulings "a huge victory for our campaign."
As to the e-mails, she said they revealed "nothing more than chatter between campaign consultants. Their advice - including a proposal to go negative as far back as July - was rejected."
She added: "There was absolutely no connection between the campaign and the state lottery, which had already planned an ad campaign in the fall, as it does every year."
David Kerrigan, an attorney for Meldrum and the other defendants - former aides John Weaver, John Yob and Jordan Gehrke - said the e-mails raise "legitimate questions and concerns."
The lottery ad, titled, "Permission," began running Sept. 27 and will continue until Nov. 30. It is appearing on radio and television, with essentially the same script. The TV ad shows images of boats, firefighters and other scenes depicting beneficiaries of lottery proceeds.
"Massachusetts is home to the most successful state lottery in America," it says. "That's the result of a consistently well-managed lottery - and luck has nothing to do with it."
The ad first ran in 2005, and has run almost annually since, though only one other time during the fall. That occurred in 2006, the last time Cahill ran for election. The ad did not run last year.
The conversations by political aides about the timing of a publicly funded television ad campaign challenge staunch denials of any improper activity made last week by the lottery's head. Executive Director Mark Cavanagh said his staffers did not collude with Cahill's gubernatorial campaign.
Cavanagh said he spoke with Cahill this year about his ad strategy, and has spoken throughout the year with Campbell, the political aide, but he noted the ad does not mention Cahill, nor does it show him.
"The lottery is part of the treasury, but there was absolutely no conversation, or whatever the insinuation was, between the campaign and lottery," Cavanagh told the AP. "There'll be no e-mails from lottery to anybody on this; that's not how we operate."
Coakley said last week that she had not yet received a complaint from Meldrum, but said pledged to "reach out to those individuals who have made these allegations to determine whether there is credible information to substantiate the allegations."
In a statement Wednesday, the Massachusetts Republican Party demanded an investigation.
"The e-mails raise troubling questions and show a clear breach of the public's faith in state government," said Chairwoman Jennifer Nassour.
This program aired on October 13, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.