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.

Good for Charlie Baker

The 12 people who actually care are offended that Charlie Baker won’t be attending the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston. Good for him.

The Outraged Liberal disagrees.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Baker

The Boston Globe reports today that state Treasurer Tim Cahill may spend close to $1 million on private lawyers to defend himself and an associate against charges alleging favoritism at the Lottery. Yet the conflict of interest that kept Attorney General Martha Coakley from taking the case at a much lower cost no longer exists.

The story, by Frank Phillips and my Northeastern University colleague Walter Robinson, takes some pains to play down the charges themselves. But this is very bad news for Cahill, who’s running for governor next year as an independent.

It’s also bad news for Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, whose best insurance for re-election is a strong enough Cahill candidacy to split the anti-Patrick vote with Republican challenger Charlie Baker.

Further thoughts from the Outraged Liberal.

Deval Patrick’s misplaced priorities

I am trying to conserve electrons this morning. So instead of engaging in lengthy bloviation, let me refer you to two excellent posts by the Outraged Liberal on Gov. Deval Patrick’s misplaced priorities.

One is on the Patrick administration’s desire to use our tax dollars to build a bridge connecting two of Patriots owner Bob Kraft’s wildly profitable enterprises while simultaneously cutting funds for the homeless. The other is on the sickening hackorama Patrick has been fostering at his transportation department.

I will only disagree with Mr. O.L. to this extent: Patrick has now been governor for nearly three years. Yet Mr. O.L. still refers to the governor’s actions as “screw-ups” and questions “whether anyone in the Corner Office is paying attention.”

No. At this late date, the only reasonable conclusion is that this is who Patrick is.

And don’t miss the original Boston Globe stories, to which Mr. O.L. helpfully links.

Pundits on Patrick: Not a pretty picture

Gov. Deval Patrick’s politically clueless performance of recent days has brought out some sharp commentary from local pundits. A quick round-up — not meant to be comprehensive, just stuff that caught my eye:

  • Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe: “The Massachusetts governor is presiding over a local version of the larger, national disaster that is chipping away at confidence in government and the economy. But Patrick’s instincts for the symbols that enrage taxpayers are poor, and so, apparently, are the instincts of those who report to him.” Comment: Vennochi pretty much nails it. But it’s not just Patrick’s inept handling of political symbolism — it’s the lack of substance, too.
  • Jon Keller, WBZ: “It’s been a dismaying, demoralizing turn of events, coming at the worst possible time for the only thing that really matters, the ability of our state to deal with our crises in a way that protects and provides opportunity to the working classes. Things are bad out here, and no one wants to hear Deval Patrick whining about what a drag his chosen profession has turned out to be.” Comment: Keller’s pretty rough on everyone. Nevertheless, there’s a difference in tone here that suggests Keller thinks the governor has reached the point of no return.
  • The Outraged Liberal: “Patrick came to this job from the world of business, where executives got what they wanted by the sheer force of their will and personality. Some learn that politics is not the same environment and that accommodation is required…. But the biggest loser will be Patrick, who tried to strong arm the process and failed. In spectacular fashion.” Comment: Outside of Blue Mass. Group, Patrick has had no better friend in the local blogosphere than Mr. O.L. Very ominous.
  • Jay Fitzgerald, Hub Blog and Boston Herald: “Gov. Patrick’s ‘trivial’ comment is perhaps the single most stupid political remark I’ve heard muttered by a state or national pol in the face of genuine public outrage. It will stick with him for the rest of his years in the corner office.” Comment: I think Jay’s right.
  • David Kravitz, Blue Mass. Group: “It’s more than passing strange for this particular crowd to be so clueless about why stuff like this matters. No, the money at issue in the AIG bonuses, or Carol Aloisi’s job, or Marian Walsh’s special election, will not make or break the state or the country. But the damage these kinds of things do is, while less tangible, no less real.” Comment: If Patrick is losing one of the BMG co-editors, then he’s pretty much down to family and childhood friends.
  • Paul Flannery, Boston Daily: “Patrick has never bothered to take care of the little things — the car, the drapes, the chopper, the book deal while the casino bill went down in flames — and now the big things are slipping out of his grasp.” Comment: Call it the “broken windows” theory of politics.

We are now past the half-way point of Patrick’s four-year term. It’s pretty sobering — and discouraging — to realize that, without a major turnaround, we’re looking at yet another disappointment in the governor’s office.