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Who's Paying for Those Anti-Ehrlich Ads?

Governor

The ads began appearing two weeks ago, declaring that Gov. Bob Ehrlich was running Maryland in the same way that President Bush was running America.

Those are fighting words in heavily Democratic Maryland, but they weren't coming from Ehrlich's opponent, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. Instead a newly formed group called The Maryland Fund was putting them on TV in Washington and Baltimore.

Yesterday, the Maryland Republican Party took issue with the independent group's involvement; GOP chairman John Kane accusing the group of "operating illegally."

Among Kane's complaints was that the group, a 527 independent expenditure outfit, had failed to file a quarterly report required earlier this week by the Internal Revenue Service detailing its contributors.

In response, the group's exeutive director John Rouse said he had filed a paper report that does not yet appear on the IRS web site. And he sent a copy to the Post's John Wagner.

What does it show? The Maryland Fund spent nearly $1 million on its television and radio ads. And the money came largely from some of the most reliable Democratic donors--unions and trial lawyers.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave $600,000; the Democratic Governors Association gave $290,000; the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association gave $160,000; and the Maryland State Teachers Association gave $33,000.

Kane said he also saw "strong evidence" of possible coordination between the Maryland Fund and the O'Malley campaign. Any coordination between campaigns and 527 groups is illegal.

In 2004, Democrats raised similar complaints about another 527, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who ran ads challenging Democratic contender John F. Kerry's miliatry credentials.

In this case, the state GOP cited as evidence a Post story from last month that disclosed that one of those working for the fund was Jim Cauley, who served as a consultant to O'Malley's 1999 mayoral campaign. He more recently managed the campaign of Sen. Barak Obama (D-Ill.)

Rouse said the GOP claim of collusion was "frivolous and specious."

That sentiment was echoed by O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese, who called the GOP news conference "a desperate stunt."

By Phyllis Jordan  |  October 20, 2006; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Governor  
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