Attorney General Martha Coakley has announced she's investigating the allegations swirling around Tim Cahill and state Lottery ads. Meanwhile, the Lottery office has decided to suspend the advertisements until the attorney general's review is complete.
These developments happened Thursday night after Cahill, the state treasurer, responded to charges from former staffers that his campaign broke the law when it tried to benefit from a taxpayer-funded ad campaign for the Lottery.
At issue in this continuing saga of political betrayal and revenge is a stack of e-mails. They were released Wednesday by Cahill's former political aides, who Cahill is suing for allegedly sabotaging his campaign.
The E-Mails In Question
Cahill alleges the former aides passed confidential information to Republican Charlie Baker's campaign. But they claim the lawsuit is an effort to muzzle them and they say the e-mails prove it.
The e-mails show that Cahill's staffers were trying to work with state Treasury officials to get ads on the air to publicize the Lottery, which is overseen by Cahill. But Thursday Cahill said, as far as he knows, his campaign staffers did not work with anyone at the Treasury.
"My teams are separate," Cahill said. "My Treasury team is focused on the Treasury, and my campaign team is focused on the campaign. And what internal people talk about is not something I can, unfortunately, control. But it doesn't cross over."
The e-mails do not incriminate Cahill. But they do show that his campaign staff was involved. For example, one e-mail from campaign aid Dane Strother asked, "How do we get the lottery ads...rolling?" That was sent to Adam Meldrum, the campaign director who quit last month. Meldrum sent it on to another staffer who responded, "I'll check...with (the) lottery people."
But Thursday Cahill blamed the people he's at war with, including Meldrum and the Republican Governors Association.
"What Adam Meldrum, who now works for the RGA, is saying what he knew or what he was talking about, I can't speak to that because, again, he's proven to be less than an honorable person. And their job has been to try to destroy the campaign," Cahill said.
Thursday night Meldrum and two other former Cahill campaign consultants responded. They submitted brief sworn statements to Norfolk Superior Court, saying they did not transfer any confidential information to anyone outside the Cahill campaign. Their attorney, Charlie Spies, said Cahill's lawsuit was never about protecting campaign secrets.
"The real purpose of his complaint was to attempt to constrain these former consultants from speaking out about evidence of improper activity by Treasury and Lottery employees to benefit Mr. Cahill's campaign," Spies said.
Now it will be up to the court to decide if and how this case goes forward.
New Poll Shows Lawsuit May Hurt Cahill And Baker
In the meantime, a new poll suggests this legal drama has affected the race between Baker and incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick. A Suffolk University survey out Thursday showed Patrick with a seven-point lead over Baker. And it found that a huge majority of voters were aware of Cahill's lawsuit, according to David Paleologos, who directed the poll.
"It has made an impact," Paleologos said. "Eighty percent of the voters in Massachusetts were aware of the lawsuit, and the net impact was that it appears to have hurt Cahill, but also Baker. And therefore we're almost two-and-a-half weeks out and Baker has a seven point deficit to make up."
Cahill, meanwhile, is polling a distant third with just 10 percent. But the fact that his legal odyssey has hurt Baker might offer him some consolation. After all, it was the Republican Governors Association that helped doom his campaign many months ago with a series of attack ads.
"What is the unofficial motto of the state? It's don't get mad, get even," said Dennis Hale, a professor of political science at Boston College.
The Cahill show might be riveting political theater, but Hale says it's an unfortunate distraction from important issues and from the real campaign.
"As long as the subject is who said what in an e-mail, and whether a court case can proceed, then surely, yeah, we're not talking about anything real," Hale said. "So this is going nowhere, and it is too bad."
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Lottery has put its ads on hold, while Coakley looks into the allegations of improper coordination between the the Cahill campaign and Lottery officials.
This program aired on October 14, 2010.