By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tim Cahill’s wacky yet serious lawsuit

Tim Cahill

Tim Cahill’s lawsuit against his former political consultants is the craziest Massachusetts political story since — oh, since U.S. Rep. John Tierney’s wife pled guilty to federal tax-fraud charges involving her rambling, gambling brother who’s holed up in Antigua. Since Suzanne Bump thought she had two principal residences. Since —

Well, you get the idea. It’s been a nutty week. And the temptation is to make fun of Cahill, the state treasurer who’s mounting a hopeless independent campaign for governor. It’s as though he’s trying to outlaw politics as usual.

But let’s let this play out a bit, shall we? There are two competing explanations for what’s behind the suit, and I’m not sure we can say which is more credible at this point. Cahill is claiming dirty tricks on Republican candidate Charlie Baker’s behalf by people who were on his payroll. Cahill wants to stop the turncoats from giving confidential campaign documents to Baker, which is reasonable, even if it adds to his reputation as a figure of fun.

The Republicans, meanwhile, argue that Cahill is trying to stop the disclosure of possible wrongdoing such as the use of state employees on his campaign.

Well, now. Couldn’t both be true? If the ex-Cahill folks have proprietary knowledge of such wrongdoing, they have no business bringing it to Baker. If they think it was actually illegal, then they should take their information to prosecutors. Otherwise, they cashed their checks and they should shut up.

At times like these, I turn to one of my favorite political pundits, the Outraged Liberal, who observes: “The only winner in this bizarre but entertaining tale of political intrigue is Deval Patrick, which is obvious in the silence out of his campaign.”

Indeed, Patrick has proved to be incredibly resilient during this campaign. An unpopular incumbent in a bad year for Democrats, Patrick has run slightly ahead of Baker, long seen as the Republicans’ best hope, all year.

I still think it’s going to be difficult for Patrick actually to win re-election. But he has been surprisingly lucky in his opposition.

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Remember, when dog bites man it’s not news


Tierney versus Hudak on Fox 25


  1. Steve Stein

    This is a great story for comparing media outlet’s coverage because it’s got two compelling angles from which to view it. The headline can be anti-Cahill (improper use of state employees?) or anti-Baker (employing moles within the Cahill campaign?).

    WBZ radio this morning was flipping back and forth between the two story lines, sometimes teasing one at 20 and 50 past the hour, and emphasizing the other in the actual stories at the hour and half hour.

    The Globe went with anti-Baker: “Cahill accuses ex-aideof plot the help Baker”.

    The Herald editions I’ve seen don’t front-page this at all.

    I think Governor Patrick is going to pull this one out. It’s a long way from the tone-deaf start to his tenure. He’s projecting the image of a calm, steady leader who has guided the state through very rough times. On the other hand, even when people have been searching for an alternative, the electorate just doesn’t seem to like Baker. Even if Cahill were to drop out, I’m not sure his defectors would break for Baker in numbers large enough to make a difference.

    Both Patrick and Cahill have run strong ads in their own voices, but I haven’t seen one Baker ad where he speaks for himself. Like Scott Brown, Patrick has indeed been fortunate in his opposition.

    On another topic – I expect you’re going to do a separate post on last night’s Communications Forum, yes? It was fascinating from my standpoint as a media amateur, and doubly so for the professionals in the audience, I expect.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: Thanks for coming last night. No, I have no plans to write about the forum. I was up there flapping my gums, so it would be pretty hard to do. However, audio, video and a summary will be posted here.

  2. Barbara Durkin

    This is all very interesting, Dan, and unfortunate for Tim Cahill. While, I hope that this distraction does not undermine the important focus of the state of our economy and urgent need for jobs.

    Who as governor will lead out out of this mess we’re in?

    In this regard, the incumbent is encumbering us. On the economic front, Patrick supports Cape Wind’s “no bid” deal with National Grid. That is 2 to 3 times more expensive than other green energy, and $4.5 billion above market price.

    In Mass, First Wind CEO and President is our Governor’s appointed Green Jobs Czar.

    Investigative Journalist Ira Stoll in Future of Capitalism writes:

    “First Wind Holdings LLC will get a $117 million loan guarantee from federal “stimulus” funds to finance the construction and start-up of a wind energy project in Kahuku, Hawaii, the federal Department of Energy announced Friday. Once complete, the project will create “six to ten” jobs, according to the Department of Energy. At $117 million, works out to a federally guaranteed loan of between $19.5 million and $11.7 million for each job created…”

    Wind energy industry specious claim “Green Jobs” (studies and reports):

    For these reasons, I intend to vote for Charlie Baker. As he recognizes that citizens need reliable and affordable energy as well as job opportunities that cost us less that $19.5 million each by our guaranteed federal loan.


    Barbara Durkin

  3. Mike Benedict

    @Barbara: One of the fundamental problems is the way you pose the question; i.e., “this mess.”

    And the problem with that is, everyone defines “mess” differently, and what you deem a mess many others consider an opportunity.

    Take, for instance, your comments on renewable energy. What’s your position on how to move forward should be a federal or a state decision? What’s Baker’s? I sincerely doubt Baker would turn down hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants, so why should Patrick?

    Isn’t that one reason we elected Patrick in the first place? Because our then sitting governor Romney was out belittling the state every chance he got, thus stalling federal investment (read: a return of state tax dollars) in the Commonwealth?

    A quick read of Baker’s work both in the public sector under Weld and later in the private sector shows a man more than willing to put supposed ideological positions aside in favor of a short-term financial return. What makes you think he would be any different in the corner office?

  4. C.E. Stead

    DK – And they all thought I was crazy to back Christy Mihos in the primary!

  5. Barbara Durkin

    Hi Mike:

    The feds and the state are in favor of Cape Wind for political reasons and monetary reasons. I think that there should be a moratorium on wind energy, on and off shore.

    Cape Wind IS 130 Siemens wind turbines newly installed, offshore UK, and corroding, sinking and shifting. While it cannot, if “all goes well” this “no bid” deal will hike our rates from 8.11 cents per kWh to 19.4 cents per kWh, with a guaranteed 3.5% annual increase. Only through faith can one adopt such a flawed energy and business plan.

    Charlie Baker: “There are three reasons why Cape Wind is not a good idea. The first is no financial harm. That should be rule number one with regard to electricity policy in Massachusetts.

    Number two, we need to be transparent about the cost of a lot our green iniatives – which we currently are not – and they ought to be put through the same competitive process that most other programs and policies have to go through to justify their worth.

    The third is, I’m all for diversification when it comes to diversifying our energy mix and our electricity mix. Cape Wind is not a diversification strategy – it’s a big bet strategy.”

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