Baker Puts Focus On Cahill Donations

Charlie Baker just held a conference-call press conference, in which he criticized Tim Cahill for accepting contributions from pension fund managers who get business from the Treasurer's office -- which was recently reported in the Boston Globe (by Walter Robinson's talented journo students).

Baker is calling on Cahill to disclose and provide details about the placement agents that the Treasurer's office uses to select pension-fund managers, and to fully disclose all campaign contributors from those agents.

He also wants those agents to register with the Treasurer's office, like lobbyists do with the state Secretary; and to end the commission-style compensation method, replacing it with flat fees.

Plus, Baker wants a new law that would fine campaigns that are failing to adequately disclose donors' occupation and employer information. Cahill was rapped by the Globe a few months ago for his low rate of compliance with that requirement.

Politically, this is the latest, and perhaps most glaring example of Baker turning his guns on Cahill in the past week or two. There are two ways to interpret this. Baker may be convinced that -- as Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos recently said -- Deval Patrick is doomed and it's a two-way race between Baker and Cahill. Or, Baker may realize that this is his best window to squash Cahill's candidacy before it gets traction -- and Baker needs Cahill knocked down to single digits if he's going to have a chance to beat Patrick.

I suspect the latter. I think that Cahill's recent high-profile activity is his play to reach the Massachusetts summer doldrums as a serious, viable candidate -- virtually assuring that status when the real campaign stretch begins after Labor Day. Baker wants to prevent that from happening.

I would also suggest that Baker and Cahill are turning the heat on each other now in part because they have concluded that Christy Mihos is not going to be a serious factor in the campaign. There was an expectation that Mihos would be using his millions and the media by this point (the GOP state convention is less than a month away) to bash Baker. That would allow Cahill to gain ground without taking the lead on attacks; it would also keep Baker occupied on winning the Republican primary, not on positioning against Cahill for the general. Mihos may yet surprise us, but thus far his campaign appears irrelevant, and is being widely ignored.

You will notice that Patrick and his people have been conspicuously silent about the Cahill stories of the past week. Obviously they're perfectly happy to let his opponents fight one another, instead of criticizing him. But they've often been willing to pile on Baker. As I have suggested before, Patrick's strategy appears to involve propping up Cahill as much as possible, to ensure that the anti-Patrick vote gets split in November.

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