Policy Learning in the Cahill Case

A few small items caught my eye on the Boston Globe’s story today Cahill to pay $100,000 to settle case.

First was there policy learning in this case? Policy learning is a change of thinking in a relevant community about a policy. In that sense I would be confident that Attorney General Martha Coakley has succeeded in persuading politicians that running state funded television ads touting one’s credentials during an election is no longer acceptable conduct (it had been for years).

Now what about policy learning in the Attorney General’s Office? That was not successful. As reported in the Boston Herald, Attorney General Coakley stated that “I would do again what we did.”  As Professor Ubertaccio has argued, this was a case of criminalizing politics. But being a prosecutor means never having to say you’re sorry. James Q. Wilson wrote in Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It, “When criticized, some organizations hunker down and others conduct a searching self-examination.” Prosecutors seem to always hunker down. (See also Carmen Ortiz).

Also according to today’s Globe, the AGO claims that the Cahill civil settlement was “biggest settlement of this kind in recent years.” The biggest settlement of what kind? Is this a good thing? What were the second and third settlements?

If the purpose here is to prevent politicians from using state resources to make the public aware of their accomplishments, would public officials be barred, for instance, from trumpeting to the public that their questionable decisions resulted in “biggest settlement of this kind in recent years”?

The Globe wasn’t interested in how much this might have cost the commonwealth, but the Herald was. Unfortunately, Coakley “said she could not put a price tag on the cost of prosecuting Cahill.”

You get what you pay for.

About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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