Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Tim Cahill -- Public Enemy Number One? Please...

Maybe we're going soft, but... we're feeling sorry for Tim Cahill today.

This is not to say we forgive Cahill for doing something wrong, if that's indeed what happened. Published reports indicate that Cahill apparently was involved in a decision to run promotional ads for the state Lottery (using public funds set aside for that purpose) as a way to give lift to his simultaneous independent run for Governor. Using public money for personal gain is wrong, and those who do it should be punished. Period.

But, that's exactly our point. Right now, there are hundreds of people sitting on Beacon Hill (or back in their "district offices" on a nice springtime day) who routinely commit the same type of abuse in some way, shape, or form, or to differing degrees. (Joe Battenfeld lays out some excellent examples in his Boston Herald column here.) Those elected officials are not preparing for criminal trials today; they're preparing to take off on school vacation week.

In our observation, all of the laws that are passed to "clean up Beacon Hill" seem to stop at the doors of the State House, which makes them nothing more than window dressing intended for good press.

For an example separate from Cahill, look at the recent wave of indictments involving former Probation officials, who allegedly were conspiring to run a racket to get people patronage jobs. We get it -- running a racket is wrong, it's despicable, and it should get you in trouble. But, as they say, "it takes two to tango." If there was a racket, who was on the other side of it? If people in powerful public offices were funneling constituents for jobs as a way to curry electoral favor, weren't they accessories? And, to complete the thought -- while Commissioner O'Brien and his colleagues might have been more guilty of committing a crime by handing out patronage jobs, wasn't the greater betrayal of public trust committed by those seeking benefits for their own political gain?

Again, window dressing. As Senate President Therese Murray said in a Boston Herald story on the subject, "I can assure you I wasn't nervous." Our point.

Why should politicians on Beacon Hill be worried about anything? They get good press for passing pro-ethics laws, but they do not suffer consequences for violating them -- unless, apparently, if they leave their party and run for statewide office as an independent and lose, which leads us to think that this is at least partly why Tim Cahill is the one taking the fall today. And, these same solons will likely be issuing official press releases in just a few short weeks, spending public resources (staff, stationery, etc.) to promote money they're bringing home to their districts as part of the state budget -- at about the same time their nomination papers are due. Call us crazy, but we highly doubt they're going to be next to appear before a judge.

Doesn't Attorney General Martha Coakley have anything better to do? Is this her highest priority right now as the state's top law enforcement official? Shouldn't the priority be on making sure there is no current abuse of public funds? Or doing anything else?

And, while we're on the subject -- if it's wrong to use public resources for advertisements that result in political gain, why did the Attorney General stage an elaborate press rollout of the indictment against Cahill?

Sorry, but taking down Tim Cahill is not going to change the culture on Beacon Hill. It merely makes a mockery of the entire process.