Probe sought of Ehrlich lawyer

Common Cause says Hamilton might have lobbied without a license

July 01, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

A campaign finance watchdog group has asked the Maryland State Ethics Commission to investigate whether David B. Hamilton, the personal lawyer for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., has lobbied without a license.

"Common Cause Maryland is troubled by the appearance of a violation of these requirements by Mr. Hamilton, as he has represented clients at meetings with elected officials and administrators, has not registered as a lobbyist, and engages in fund-raising in spite of his lobbying activities," group executive director Bobbie Walton said in a written compaint sent to the ethics commission yesterday and provided to The Sun.

Hamilton is a longtime friend of Ehrlich's, and the two worked together with the Baltimore firm Ober/Kaler. Hamilton is also chairman of the governor's campaign finance committee. Lobbyists are prohibited from raising money under state law.

Shortly after the governor's election, Hamilton founded the firm's government relations practice, but has not registered as a lobbyist. He previously told The Washington Post that he handles legal work on behalf of clients, while a partner -J. William Pitcher - does lobbying work.

Hamilton's activitivies during this year's General Assembly session drew attention when he met with legislators and other state officials in a successful effort to get a $150,000 grant for dredging necessary to construct a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Sparrow's Point. The project is opposed by nearby residents.

Ehrlich has denied that Hamilton - who represents the governor on legal issues but does not receive payment - has not been involved with the company trying to build the gas facility. But records released by Baltimore County under the Maryland Public Information Act show that Hamilton met with county officials to support the project on behalf of his client, Barletta Willis LLC, which owns the shipyard where Virginia-based AES Corp. wants to put the LNG plant.

In May, a group called the LNG Opposition Team, which is part of the Greater Dundalk Alliance, a community watchdog group, also filed an ethics complaint against Hamilton.

Hamilton could not be reached last night; a spokesman for the governor did not return a telephone call for comment.

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