Welcome back! The last line of my Friday blog about Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray dropping out of the governor's race was, "Stay tuned." I knew we'd be talking about him again, just not five days later. I should have remembered that the feds have an uncanny sense of irony and timing. More on that in a minute.
Wednesday a federal grand jury dropped a four count indictment on Murray's former political ally and former head of the Chelsea Housing Authority. Michael McLaughlin is facing charges that he falsely reported his salary in required annual budgets. McLaughlin is accused of stating his annual salary was $151,945, when his actual salary for 2008 was at least $242,908. This alleged false reporting continued for three more years. The 67-year-old faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty, which would be followed by three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine on each count. I would call that a stiff sentence and motivation.
The motivation is to get out from under these charges for which there is ample evidence and an extensive paper trail. Plus, there are indications that more charges could be forthcoming. Enter the bigger fish, Tim Murray. What would garner more headlines for the feds, the bagging of a corrupt small time political operative or a sitting Lieutenant Governor? Whether Tim Murray did anything wrong or not, Tim Murray is likely praying tonight that McLaughlin does not become a contestant on let's make a deal.
There is currently no apparent evidence that Murray was involved in anything illegal and he has not been charged with a crime. He has appeared before a federal grand jury and has stated publicly that he is cooperating with the investigation. However, there is ample testimony that McLaughlin was a Murray organizer and fundraiser, something that is illegal for him to do as a state employee. In addition, The lieutenant governor reportedly helped McLaughlin's son get a job on the state Board of Appeals. His son was later fired amid allegations that he falsified time sheets.
I was not alone in my speculation when Murray abruptly dropped out of the governor's race last Friday. He's been campaigning for that job since the day he took the oath as lieutenant governor. He had raised close to half a million dollars and had publicly stated his desire to become governor. Then, like a bolt from the blue, Murray spoke that tried and true cliché that he was out and wanted to spend more time with the family.
Now back to the feds. I have covered many federal investigations into political corruption. My experience has showed me that the feds do not pick the time and place of raids or indictments in a vacuum. Do you think it was just a coincidence that a grand jury indicted McLaughlin five days after Murray claimed his dropping out of the race had nothing to do with the McLaughlin scandal? Is it just a random scheduling decision that lead the feds to ask a grand jury for these indictments on Wednesday? Maybe it is truly a fluke, but last Friday I said the political animal in me smelled more. I have that feeling again, something's cooking.