Ehrlich riding in fast lane of danger zone

The Political Game

Image: The governor makes no apologies for his honesty and thrill-seeking approach.

May 18, 2004|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

IT COULD be a midlife crisis, or the sense of middle-age that sets in when the second kid arrives. Maybe it's because he no longer gets to drive his own car and may never put on a football helmet again.

Whatever the reason, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has been cultivating the air of danger that has been circulating around his administration of late.

Danger has become the modus operandi. Dangerous words. Dangerous deeds. Government by adrenaline.

The thrill-seeking became evident when, Ehrlich, 46, delivered his first major address after the close of the 2004 General Assembly session. He shook a room full of business leaders and lobbyists by telling them that they needed to get more involved in Annapolis and that they should stop giving money to Democratic lawmakers who vote for tax increases.

"That's the Patty Hearst syndrome. You identify with your captors. The time has come for the Maryland business community to lose that syndrome," Ehrlich told the crowd. "I do not care how many e-mails are sent over 90 days. I do not care how much money you pay to powerful lobbyists in this room. We need you to influence votes. We need you to be dangerous."

Judging by the cheers, the crowd accepted the challenge. Watch out for swashbuckling men and women in tailored suits and polished pumps next session.

But the governor wasn't done. This month, he made his contentious remarks about multiculturalism being "bunk" and "crap." Liberals pounced. Immigrant groups held news conferences. The story wouldn't die.

Appearing on a Washington radio station last week, Ehrlich was asked how much damage he had inflicted upon himself.

"I don't care," said the governor, throwing caution to the wind. "My honest answer is very little. I don't care. I was not elected to be politically correct. I was not elected to be safe."

Up next: bungee-jumping off the State House dome.

Getting gifts for being the governor: Priceless

Baby Joshua Ehrlich is not the only member of the family receiving lots of gifts. The governor got plenty last year, and he diligently listed them in a 12-page addendum to his financial disclosure statement on file with the State Ethics Commission.

The gifts were received during various ceremonies and events and include lots of sports memorabilia, such as an autographed print of Memorial Stadium from former Baltimore Colts defensive lineman Ordell Braase, an autographed Terps helmet from College Park coach Ralph Friedgen and a Baltimore Bulls sweat shirt and cap.

Ehrlich received plenty of flowers, a few sleeves of golf balls, Wendell Willkie political buttons, flags, coffee and other goodies.

The governor's office attempted to estimate the value of each gift, ranging from a low of $5 for a framed photograph of the governor's first congressional staff from Ray Krul to a high of $60 for Wake Forest attire from the director of athletics at the university where the governor attended law school.

But about half the items on the list are listed as "unknown" value. Those include the Memorial Stadium print and the helmet, a few hand-carved ducks and an ostrich egg from South Africa.

The governor's staff also had a hard time estimating the worth of a framed and autographed photograph of "Hilda Mae's fountain," given by Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. The fountain was designed by Hilda Mae Snoops, the state's first hostess when Schaefer was governor.

Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening turned it off, claiming he wanted to save water during a drought. Schaefer fumed about Glendening getting revenge for years of insults and criticism. Ehrlich, a Schaefer ally, famously turned the fountain back on during a ceremony in April 2003.

The value of the photo, according to the official document provided by the governor's office: "Priceless."

Schaefer holds fund-raiser; Mitchell to helm Del. agency

Schaefer, a Democrat, is co-host of a $100-per-ticket breakfast fund-raiser this week for Del. Herb McMillan, a conservative Republican from Anne Arundel County. There's some logic to the relationship: McMillan supported a series of bills limiting privileges for illegal immigrants, and Schaefer recently touched off a firestorm with his comments about non-English speakers in fast-food restaurants. ... Former Maryland state police head David Mitchell was selected last week to become head of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security in Delaware.

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