By Andy Metzger
State House News Service
---- — BOSTON — Tim Cahill’s number two at the state Treasury was a volunteer on his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, though a conversation with the candidate at his Quincy headquarters shook her desire to continue helping, she testified on Monday.
Former First Deputy Treasurer Grace Lee said she visited the headquarters the day of the state primary, Sept. 14, 2010 and when Cahill arrived at the offices following a radio interview she spoke to him about Treasury business, including concerns that she said then-executive director of the Massachusetts State Lottery Mark Cavanagh had raised about a series of Lottery ads that were in the works.
After an email exchange with Cahill’s campaign finance director Scott Campbell, Cavanagh had spoken to Lee, reiterating his concerns about a series of state-funded Lottery ads set to run before the election where Cahill was a candidate for governor.
On Tuesday, Lee testified that Cahill knew his campaign was lost when she spoke with him on primary day. Speaking with Lee, Cahill had an “irritated tone” and raised voice as he explained that Cavanagh’s concerns had already been addressed, Lee testified.
“I already talked to Mark about this. This has nothing to do with the campaign. I’m still the state treasurer and I have to do my job,” Lee said in court, paraphrasing Cahill’s remarks. About the decision to run ads touting the Lottery so close to the election, Cahill said, “I’m damned if I do; damned if I don’t,” according to Lee.
The exchange, which took place days before the Lottery ads were authorized, discouraged Lee, who soon afterwards texted a friend, “I’m done.”
“I was a volunteer and I thought that the conversation was a little rough,” Lee said, explaining her state of mind to prosecutor Eileen O’Brien, who is no relation to the other prosecutor in the case, James O’Brien.
Cahill’s attorney Jeffrey Denner questioned Lee about her conversation with Cahill on primary day.
“He knew his campaign was lost?” Denner asked.
“Yes,” Lee replied.
Cahill and Campbell are on trial, accused by Attorney General Martha Coakley of conspiring to run publicly funded Lottery ads in the final weeks of the election to boost Cahill’s chances against Gov. Deval Patrick and Republican candidate Charlie Baker. Cahill and Campbell have pleaded not guilty.
When Lee presented Cavanagh’s concerns about the “permission” ads to Cahill, she said, the treasurer suggested Cavanagh was angling to keep his job by after the next treasurer took office by preserving the ad budget.
“It was something to the effect of, ‘Oh he doesn’t want to do the ads, he just wants to be in her good graces by saving the ad money for her,” Lee said, referring to then-Republican candidate for treasurer, Karyn Polito, who lost the election that year to current Treasurer Steven Grossman.
Lee testified on Friday that Cavanagh spoke with her about a month before the primary, on Aug. 16, 2010, when he shared his worries about the idea of running Lottery ads, which Cavanagh figured were the brainchild of Mike Sheehan, CEO of the Lottery’s outside ad agency, Hill Holliday. Cavanagh was concerned about the cost of the ad campaign and how it would look.
“I remember him saying, ‘The press is going to crucify us,’ “ Lee said.
At another point she said, “I do not believe that Mr. Cahill was one of the press’s favorites.”
In his own testimony, Cavanagh said he was in favor of the idea to run so-called “permission” ads, which showcase the Lottery’s funding of police and schools, thereby giving people permission to buy lottery tickets. Cavanagh said he had suggested it to Cahill but disagreed with Sheehan over the cost of the ads.
A Brookline resident who now works as a special counsel at Eckert Seamans law firm, Lee had been at the Treasury since 2003 and rose to the number two spot in 2007. In Cahill’s gubernatorial campaign, Lee “was assigned the head of blogging,” she testified on Friday. Her duties included rounding up volunteers to comment on Internet articles.
After several aides defected from Cahill’s campaign and email messages, which became public, suggested that Cahill’s media consultant was involved in the decision to run the Lottery ads, Lee asked Cahill about the situation and was set at ease by his reply.
Cahill’s reply was relayed in court by Denner, his attorney, and Lee confirmed that what Denner relayed was what Cahill had said in mid-October.
“Absolutely nothing untoward has happened here. You know. You were a part of it,” Cahill told Lee. He said, “You know that the Lottery ads have nothing to do with the campaign.”
“I believed him,” Lee said of the conversation she said took place at the campaign headquarters. Asked by Denner, about how she viewed Cahill, Lee said, “I found him very straight. Very – sometimes without filter. I believed him to be honest. I believed him to be compassionate, and I believed him to be fair.”
When text messages were released soon after further suggesting collusion between the campaign and the decision to run the Lottery ads, Lee started to question whether Cahill had told her the truth, she said.