BOSTON (AP) - Former state treasurer Tim Cahill insisted Thursday that he approved $1.8 million in taxpayer-funded state lottery ads "for the best interests" of the lottery, not to help boost his faltering 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
Cahill, who oversaw the lottery as treasurer, is charged with conspiracy to use his official position to gain an unwarranted privilege and conspiracy to commit procurement fraud. A prosecutor told jurors during opening statements at the corruption trial that Cahill schemed to "reach into the pocket" of the state lottery to bolster his independent campaign as he ran a distant third in the polls.
On the witness stand, Cahill appeared confident as he spent more than two hours answering questions from his lawyer. The trial ended for the day before he could be cross-examined by prosecutors.
Cahill said it was the idea of the lottery's executive director to run so-called permission ads touting the lottery's benefits, including its success in providing funding for local communities. The Republican Governors Association had run a series of ads in the spring of 2010 attacking Cahill and his management of the lottery, the treasury and the state pension fund.
Cahill, who called the ads "insidious," said lottery Executive Director Mark Cavanaugh was concerned that the negative ads would damage the image of the lottery and hurt sales. Cahill said he approved the use of ads that gave people "permission" to buy lottery tickets because money turned back to cities and towns were used to build roads and other local projects. The lottery had used similar ads in the past, Cahill said. Neither his name nor image ever appeared in the ads.
"I agreed with the strategy and I felt that it was the best strategy for the lottery," Cahill said.
Cahill said that before those ads ran, his gubernatorial campaign had already responded to the attack ads with its own ad. In that ad, Cahill said he spoke directly to voters, denying the claims of mismanagement made in the Republican ads, saying "you know me" and touting his qualifications to be governor.
By the time the lottery ads began running, Cahill said, his campaign was already in bad shape; he was way down in the polls and didn't have much hope of gaining ground. He said he approved the ads because he wanted to "do right by the lottery."
"Why did you run those lottery ads?" asked his lawyer, Jeff Denner.
"Because they were for the best interests of the lottery," Cahill said.
Assistant Attorney General James O'Brien said in opening statements that Cahill decided to push for the lottery ads after he went from being competitive in the race to "being a clear third person in the race," behind Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick and Republican challenger Charles Baker.
O'Brien said Cahill and his former campaign manager, Scott Campbell, put together focus groups in July 2010 that showed that Cahill's association with the successful state lottery "was an enormous selling point."
Soon after that, Cahill's campaign staff decided to resurrect the lottery's permission ads, O'Brien said.
Cahill's testimony is expected to continue Friday. Campbell is being tried on similar charges.