Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tim Cahill does the pretzel

Another day, another ugly front-page-above-the-fold Globe article for Treasurer Tim Cahill. This one concerns the curious disconnect between his recent, attention-grabbing pronouncements about the dire fiscal consequences of the Commonwealth's 2006 health care reforms, and his very different tone in bond disclosure documents he recently issued in his capacity as state Treasurer. The Globe explains:
Two weeks before leveling grave charges that the state’s universal health care law was bankrupting Massachusetts, state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill signed a statement for potential buyers of a $538.1 million bond that made no mention of his concerns about a financial calamity.
On March 2, Cahill approved a general obligation bond to operate state government that specifically outlined the finances of the state’s landmark health care statute. But the document, which potential investors use to evaluate the financial health of Massachusetts, does not indicate that the 2006 law poses a threat to the state’s economic stability... The absence of alarm in the documents stands in stark contrast to Cahill’s campaign trail rhetoric, as he tries to position himself as a fiscal conservative in the governor’s race.
Why does that matter? Well, for one thing, because state officials like Cahill who issue obligation bond disclosures are required by law to include all "material facts" within their knowledge concerning the state's economic condition. Since Cahill has in the two weeks since issuing that bond statement been all over the state and even the national news proclaiming that the 2006 health reforms are "bankrupting Massachusetts," one would think that opinion constitutes the sort of "material fact" that Cahill is obligated to disclose to investors... if he in fact believes it. Here's how the Globe characterizes the Treasurer's conundrum:
The question Cahill now faces is whether he misled investors by not disclosing a major potential fiscal problem facing Massachusetts, or whether his criticism of health care was a political maneuver designed to tap into anger among some voters over government spending.
But of course that's not really a "question," is it? It's more like a padded observation - an observation already made clear by the Globe earlier in the article, when it notes that Cahill's headline-garnering rhetoric was issued "as he tries to position himself as a fiscal conservative in the governor’s race."

Already limbered up from his twisting and weaving in response to the week's first Globe front page article about the pay-to-play culture that has permeated the Treasurer's office under his watch, allowing him to raise hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions from out of state firms that do business with the agencies that he oversees, Cahill was forced to twist himself further. Grace Lee, a deputy Treasurer (paid by the state) told the Globe she was “disappointed that some would politicize the official financial business of the Treasury, especially in light of the fact that the treasurer has managed the Commonwealth’s finances so successfully through the most challenging fiscal climate since the Great Depression.’’

Leave aside the belly-laugh-inducing expression of disappointment that "some would politicize the official business of the Treasury." Apparently Deputy Treasurer Lee did not get the election year memo explaining that Mr. Cahill in fact has little involvement with or insight into the Commonwealth's finances (despite describing himself in a pre-election year version of his official bio as the "Commonwealth's Chief Financial Officer"). As Cahill explained to the Globe last month when he declined to offer any budget reform ideas, "I don’t have enough insight into the budget, especially particular areas where money is being wasted, until I get in there."

Once again, circumstances have conspired to highlight the fundamental falsehood that underlies Cahill's entire campaign. In order to have any prayer of winning, he must sell himself as an independent outsider. But he is unwilling or unable to completely sacrifice the political benefits that stem from his two terms as a consummate Democrat Beacon Hill insider. When it suits him to be the former, he claims ignorance of the state's (disastrous) finances. He makes wild-eyed pronouncements that seek to tap into growing conservative grass-roots anger about government excess, and he gets himself on TV.

In other circumstances, though, Cahill is all too happy to resume his prior, more comfortable role. So surrogates like Ms. Lee are paraded out to claim - in total contrast to Cahill's own posturing - that he has "managed the Commonwealth's finances" through the economic downturn. And when it comes to fund raising, Cahill is more than happy to leverage the power and influence of his office to squeeze state contractors for big dollars.

Cahill and his consultants hope nobody will notice the contradictions - and the hypocrisy. The Globe did notice, and put all of it on the front page - twice in one week.

So it always goes for a pol who decides to run for high-profile office as a fictional construct rather than as himself. Tim Cahill is a career Beacon Hill Democrat. That's who he is. He is not an outsider. He is not an independent. He is not "the real fiscal conservative in this race," no matter how desperately he and his supporters would like him to be viewed that way.

As the past month has clearly demonstrated, the Treasurer's effort at election year transformation is more likely to turn him into a human pretzel than to land him in the corner office.

1 comment:

  1. Beware of gloating about the Globe's hatchet job on Cahill, they will be coming after Charlie Baker next.


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