Lesson from Cahill case clear as mud

The criminal saga surrounding former state treasurer Tim Cahill came to a close this week. The state Lottery’s former chief of staff, Alfred Grazioso, has agreed to a $10,000 fine and 18 months probation to settle charges of witness intimidation. Cahill settled for a $100,000 fine and 18 months probation last Friday. The settlements mean Beacon Hill won’t be subjected to a repeat of last year’s Cahill trial, which bogged down in the insidery jargon of Lottery advertising and ended in a hung jury. But it also means the legal and ethical disagreements that raged during Cahill’s trial are left unsettled. There’s something in the settlements for everyone, which means the prosecution — Beacon Hill’s first brush with a tough new criminal ethics law — is a cautionary tale for no one.

When Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Cahill’s indictment last April, she alleged that the former treasurer had blown most of the Lottery’s advertising budget in a last-ditch effort to prop up his flagging gubernatorial campaign. The alleged misuse of Lottery funds for political purposes used to be a civil matter, but lawmakers upgraded the offense to a criminal violation in the aftermath of a spate of high-profile public corruption cases. Coming after Dianne Wilkerson’s shirt-stuffing antics and Sal DiMasi’s elaborate kickback scheme, Cahill’s alleged misdirection of Lottery funds failed to whip up any serious public outrage. Coakley’s prosecutors also had difficulty proving that Cahill’s feel-good Lottery ads were intentionally political. Prosecutors showed a jury lots of dubious-looking smoke, but not enough fire, and the jury couldn’t decide what it all meant. Cahill and Grazioso’s settlements have cemented this lack of clarity.

A Herald editorial yesterday claimed that, even without a criminal conviction hanging around his neck, Cahill’s ordeal serves as a stern warning to Beacon Hill. That may be wishful thinking, though. Cahill previously called his jury’s inability to convict or acquit him “total vindication.” He struck a similar tone in a Greater Boston interview yesterday. Coakley’s office has maintained that the settlement it struck with Cahill pinned an admission of civil ethics lawbreaking to the former treasurer. Cahill, however, told Emily Rooney that his settlement deal wasn’t an admission of guilt: “I won’t accept guilt, and I don’t.” If the two stars of the ethics dust-up can’t agree on what it means, it’s hard to see how the case wards off anyone looking in at it from the outside.

–PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

In CommonWealth, Maurice Cunningham writes about the crimes and punishment of Michael McLaughlin. Apparently, greed is good.

Former Probation Department official Christopher Bulger argues that he should keep his law license because, he says, he never conspired with Probation boss John O’Brien — the pair just gossiped.

State officials and the Mashpee Wampanoag are close to working out a revised gaming compact.

A Herald editorial lines up behind House Speaker Bob DeLeo, and rips Gov. Deval Patrick’s new online tax calculator.

The state Republican Party is asking campaign finance regulators to examine whether 22-year old freshman Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik had the means to put $9,500 of his own money into his campaign, as his campaign disclosures show. Zlotnik calls the move “sour grapes,” and says he plowed all of his life savings into his campaign.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Quincy police placed 14 officers and six supervisors on paid leave after discovering their gun permits had expired.

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua seeks more money for veterans as the city’s veteran caseload has increased from 70 to 120 over the last year, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

State officials have confirmed they are holding up state Rep. David Sullivan’s appointment to run the Fall River Housing Authority while they review his resume to see if his credentials satisfy the posted job requirements.

The attorney general has declined a request by civil rights groups to further investigate the fatal shooting of New Bedford teen by that city’s police during an encounter.

The Enterprise has a two-part series about the water and sewage contract Stonehill College has with Brockton that allows the Easton school to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars less than it should because of the generous billing method.

The Weymouth Town Council voted to place a moratorium on permits for medical marijuana dispensaries until at least May of next year.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

President Obama nominates two with Massachusetts ties to serve as his secretaries of energy and head of the Environmental Protection Agency, WBUR reports. He is tapping MIT’s Ernest Moniz for energy secretary and former state environmental official Gina McCarthy to head the EPA. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board says McCarthy’s appointment means a regulatory war over carbon is coming.

The Journal traces the proliferation of Robert Rubin proteges in the White House.

ELECTIONS

All three Republican candidates for US Senate have rejected the call by their Democratic counterparts to eschew spending in the race by outside groups, calling it a ploy by Ed Markey and Steve Lynch, who both start the race with fairly flush campaign accounts.

The Globe reports on Massachusetts sheriffs and district attorneys whose employees help fill their campaign coffers.

Return of the Bushes: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush dips his toe into the 2016 race and gets tagged with a flip-flip on immigration reform.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The state Department of Transportation has approved a Boston development team’s air rights proposal for a 32-story tower over the Massachusetts Turnpike near the corner of Mass. Ave. and Boylston Street in Boston.

Mohegan Sun adds $175 million in amenities to its casino proposal outside Springfield as competition for the western Massachusetts license intensifies, the Associated Press reports (via WBUR).

The 2024 Summer Olympics in Boston? A group of business leaders is beginning the talk.

Coal companies are hiring environmental activists to promote exports to Asia, Governing reports.

The Weekly Standard makes the case to tax the country’s estimated 2 million non-profit organizations. The story comes on the heels of Jacob Lew, President Obama’s new treasury secretary, saying the administration may once again seek to cap charitable deductions.

The New York Times contrasts the rebounding fortunes of Detroit’s anchor corporations with the city’s continued financial struggles.

EDUCATION

Despite opposition from two neighborhood groups, a new charter school in Lowell wins approval, the Sun reports.

Oberlin College, a bastion of liberalism, is shut down for a day as hate-speech incidents plague the campus, the Wall Street Journal reports.

HEALTH CARE

The Salem News, in an editorial, applauds a new state report that draws attention to what one lawmaker is calling the “epidemic” of Lyme disease. Learn in this recent CommonWealth story about the behind-the-scenes struggle over the portion of the report dealing with antibiotic treatment for Lyme.

The New England Journal of Medicine has a survey that shows the majority of program directors and would-be doctors don’t like the residency restrictions on hours and duties put in place nationally in 2011 to reduce errors and fatigue and think they’ve done little to improve patient safety. Via Not Running a Hospital blog.

Protesters push Texas Gov. Rick Perry to reverse his opposition to a Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

TRANSPORTATION

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Worcester officials go to New York to make another pitch to JetBlue about starting flights out of Worcester Regional Airport, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll is pushing mandatory recycling, the Salem News reports.

An independent study on Quincy’s energy savings in public buildings during a controversial contract with Honeywell shows an overall decline in energy usage over the course of the contract. The dispute had triggered an investigation by the attorney general’s office and a $4 million payment from Honeywell to settle the fight.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Minnesota’s sex offender program, which relies heavily on treatment after prison terms are completed, is facing court challenges claiming the program amounts to an unconstitutional life sentence, the Star-Tribune reports.

An Eagle-Tribune story about a police dog that accidentally fired a pistol he was searching for is going viral, the E-T reports.

A Lynn Pop Warner football coach is arrested in a prostitution sting, the Item reports.

MEDIA

Gov. Deval Patrick says he hasn’t given any thought to the push for a state rock song, with some pushing the Modern Lovers’  “Roadrunner” and others pushing Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” In fact, the apparently not-so-hip gov says he isn’t even sure whether he knows either song, the Republican reports.