Cahill’s advisers discussed lottery ads

Campaign says e-mails show no improper role; Ex-aides are ordered to tell of any disclosures

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By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / October 14, 2010

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DEDHAM — Politically explosive e-mails released yesterday by former aides to state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill appear to show Cahill’s top campaign advisers trying to make sure that a million-dollar, taxpayer-funded ad blitz for the state lottery also benefited Cahill’s independent gubernatorial bid.

The publicly funded ads are, by law, intended to promote the lottery and not Cahill’s campaign. But the e-mails show Cahill’s campaign advisers discussing when the ads should run and what they should include. The Treasurer’s office oversees the lottery.

“Get the lottery immediately cutting a spot and get it up,’’ Cahill campaign adviser Dane Strother wrote to four top campaign aides July 27, according to e-mails released as part of a lawsuit Cahill filed against his former aides last week. “Needs to focus on the lottery being the best in the country and above reproach.’’

Two days later, after receiving an e-mail titled “how do we get the lottery ads ball rolling?’’ Scott Campbell, another Cahill campaign aide, wrote to the campaign manager, Adam Meldrum, telling him, “I’ll check.’’

“I think the first thing is to figure out what/when/where/how we want to do this . . . with lottery people,’’ Campbell wrote.

The e-mails, which Cahill’s campaign denied show improper coordination, were released by lawyers for three former aides whom Cahill has accused of trying to sabotage his campaign and help elect his Republican rival, Charles D. Baker, by giving Baker confidential campaign information. The aides contend Cahill is suing to muzzle them, because they witnessed illegal coordination between Cahill’s campaign staff and the state Treasury staff and were prepared to report it to the state attorney general’s office.

After hearing from both sides yesterday for more than 90 minutes, Norfolk Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh gave the former aides — John Yob, John Weaver, and Meldrum — until Monday to submit sworn testimony about information they may have taken from Cahill and given to Baker or to the Republican Governors Association.

Garsh also extended a restraining order Cahill obtained last week that forbids his former aides from sharing with anyone the advertising strategy, budgetary information, and voter databases that Cahill believes they may have acquired while working for his campaign.

Cahill’s lawyer, Joseph L. Demeo, asked the court to compel Baker’s campaign manager, Tim O’Brien, to testify under oath about any confidential information Republicans may have received about Cahill. But the judge refused to grant that request, saying she wanted to review the sworn testimony from Cahill’s former aides before hearing from other witnesses.

Both sides described the judge’s order as a victory.

Demeo said the sworn testimony from Cahill’s former aides would help prove Cahill’s case that they conspired with Baker and the Republican Governors Association.

Demeo suggested in court yesterday that the former aides gave Baker’s team a copy of Cahill’s voter database, a politically valuable compendium of Cahill’s donors and supporters, as well as the Cahill campaign’s internal memos about advertising and political strategy.

Demeo submitted to the court sworn testimony from three Cahill campaign donors who say they received e-mailed fund-raising solicitations from Baker’s campaign. Demeo said there was no way that Baker’s campaign could have obtained the donors’ e-mail addresses unless it had access to Cahill’s database.

“They sabotaged Tim Cahill’s campaign,’’ Demeo said of the former aides. “We have it in black and white.’’

Lawyers for the former aides denied that their clients tried to undermine Cahill’s campaign. They said the former aides look forward to telling their side of the story.

“Today’s court ruling was a vindication for our clients,’’ Charles R. Spies — a lawyer for Weaver, Yob, and Meldrum — said in a statement. “Judge Garsh, over the objections of Tim Cahill’s counsel, ruled that [it] is permissible for this evidence of improper activity to be released.’’

The e-mails released yesterday were included as part of a sworn statement from Meldrum, Cahill’s former campaign manager. The statement includes a transcript of text messages between Strother and Meldrum on July 27 about lottery ads.

Strother wrote: “We just found a million for extra publicity. But Cahill can’t be in the ads.’’ That was apparently because the ads, which began airing last month, are supposed to promote only the lottery.

“Ahh, OK,’’ Meldrum responded.

Strother also texted Meldrum that he needed to know “how much money the lottery has to spend,’’ adding that “Cahill thinks most of the 2 million is there.’’

State law says public employees may not use their position or public resources to further their political careers.

Cahill’s campaign said last night that the e-mails “show nothing more than chatter between campaign consultants.’’

“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,’’ the statement said.

Cahill’s lawsuit, replete with charges and countercharges of political skullduggery, has buffeted the governor’s race and forced Cahill, Baker, and Governor Deval Patrick to defend themselves against accusations of dirty tricks.

In court, Demeo presented new e-mails that he said show that, days before Cahill’s running mate, Paul Loscocco, abandoned the ticket and endorsed Baker, two aides to Loscocco reported that their laptops had been stolen. The laptops, Demeo said, contained confidential information about Cahill’s donors and supporters, and the aides offered conflicting accounts of where and how they disappeared.

Although he did not directly accuse the former Loscocco aides of stealing laptops and giving them to Baker’s campaign, Demeo said, “There’s a lot of smoke here, your honor.’’

Lawyers for Cahill’s former aides denied Demeo’s suggestions of a political theft, calling it “speculation and conjecture.’’ They urged the court to essentially abandon the case and let voters have the final say. “Let the people be the judge,’’ said David R. Kerrigan, who represented Cahill’s former aides, along with Christopher A. Kenney.

Andrea Estes of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Michael Levenson can be reached at