Mass. gubernatorial race turns into courtroom thriller amid charges of espionage, conspiracy

By Glen Johnson, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

Mass. governor race turns into courtroom thriller

BOSTON — A hard-fought Massachusetts gubernatorial race has morphed into a courtroom thriller, complete with charges of espionage, conspiracy and subterfuge.

Republicans have believed for more than a year they had a chance to unseat Gov. Deval Patrick, a marked man as a fellow Democrat, friend and political ally of President Barack Obama. But their work to narrow the campaign to a two-man race against GOP nominee Charles Baker has been thwarted by the persistent candidacy of independent Timothy Cahill.

Now, in an eleventh-hour, scorched-earth lawsuit, Cahill is charging that Baker and the Republicans have gone too far. Cahill alleges four former advisers breached their contracts with him and engineered the defection of his running mate, who endorsed Baker a week ago and said Cahill could no longer win the race.

Cahill has won a temporary restraining order, preventing the aides from sharing any campaign information with Baker. Yet one adviser, former campaign manager Adam Meldrum, has made a counterclaim: He says Cahill, who still serves as state treasurer, is trying to gag him to prevent him from proving political aides coordinated with the state lottery — which the treasurer oversees — to air government-paid commercials that reinforce campaign themes.

And Cahill’s former running mate, Paul Loscocco, said in a statement Friday he quit because he felt Cahill had stopped trying to win. He said Cahill admitted his team was coordinating with Patrick’s team on anti-Baker ads, and on finding administration jobs for Cahill aides if the governor won re-election.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, in the midst of her own re-election campaign, said she reach out to Meldrum to investigate his claim. Cahill’s case returns to court Wednesday.

“It’s very disheartening,” said former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn. “No. 1, I think it hurts the person that the charges are leveled against. And No. 2, it certainly hurts politics, because it just confirms people’s notion that ‘They’re all a bunch of crooks.’”

The contretemps may also achieve the opposite of what the Republicans had hoped.

Cahill has gained a load of free media coverage and ensured he will remain a topic of discussion until Nov. 2. His continued candidacy stands to wound Baker, who has been vying for the same fiscally conservative voters, and allow Patrick to win a second term with just a minority of the overall vote.

Cahill’s lawsuit, filed Thursday in state court, also provides a window into the modern campaign.

Attached exhibits include his contract with former McCain campaign advisers John Weaver and John Yob. They also include e-mails between them, Meldrum and another staffer they brought into the campaign, plus a Boston lobbyist who is a Loscocco confidant.

Cahill got the e-mails after Meldrum forwarded his personal Gmail account to his campaign e-mail account — and then forgot to turn off forwarding when he quit Sept. 24. All of that electronic communication remained on computer servers until Cahill aides tried to unravel the recent turn of events.

They burst into public view Sept. 23, when Weaver and Yob announced their resignations, a blow to Cahill’s flagging campaign. In an interview that night with The Associated Press, Weaver said that polls showed Cahill could no longer win, and that continuing would split the anti-incumbent vote and re-elect Patrick.

“As much as I like Tim Cahill, I can’t be party to helping elect the most liberal candidate in the race,” Weaver told the AP.

Yet the e-mails show that as early as Sept. 18, Weaver and Yob were helping engineer the defection of Loscocco, a former Republican state legislator.

“This has to be done in such a way as Paul’s future is protected and everyone else is fine,” Weaver wrote to Meldrum at 8:04 a.m. At 1:42 p.m., Weaver said to Yob and Meldrum, “Paul will be given/offered a substantive lifeline. Up to him to take it or not.”

He did not reveal from whom or in what form.

Ten minutes later, Weaver forwarded Yob and Meldrum another e-mail recapping an exchange with Jason Zanetti, a lobbyist who was representing Loscocco. “As I said to Jason, the only moral obligation we have is to protect Paul,” Weaver wrote.

Cahill charges that such conversations breach his contract with Weaver and Yob, under which he had already paid them nearly $215,000 and was obligated to pay a total of $425,000 if he won.

On Oct. 1, Loscocco called Cahill to inform him he was quitting the campaign. Cahill later told reporters he received the call at 9:08 a.m.

At 9:31 a.m., Yob sent an e-mail to Meldrum and Jason Gehrke, who quit earlier this year as the campaign’s political director.

“The deed is done,” is all it said.

In a three-page statement Friday, Loscocco said he decided to quit after learning that political advisers for Cahill and Patrick were coordinating with each other on a negative ad strategy against Baker. He said Cahill also did not deny rumors about jobs being arranged with Patrick for Cahill’s staffers should he lose.

“The moment my running mate looked me in the eye and essentially admitted that his campaign was coordinating efforts with the Patrick campaign … for what I considered to be the sole purpose of defeating Charlie Baker, served as the defining moment for me in making the difficult decision to withdraw,” said Loscocco.

Patrick adviser Doug Rubin denied any coordination, noting the governor’s ads focus on Baker and Cahill equally.

“The ridiculous accusations from Paul Loscocco are not true, and I ask anyone who reads them to consider the credibility of the source, and his past actions, when reviewing this issue,” Rubin said a statement.

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