Brochin's the target, but who's the shooter?

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September 20, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

You know how the Maryland Democratic Party just luuuvs to spread the word when George Bush and friends hold fundraisers for Michael Steele? Somebody out there seems to be having the same kind of fun with an event the National Rifle Association is having in Towson on Saturday. "Join the NRA on Saturday, Sept. 23, to thank our friend Senator Jim Brochin for keeping assault weapons legal in Maryland," reads a postcard that has just landed in the mailboxes of female Democrats in Baltimore County. Nothing wrong with a little opposition event advertising - unless the advertiser doesn't come clean. The fake invite doesn't have an authority line or anything else to indicate that it's not from the NRA, which it isn't. So whoever sent it has some 'splainin' to do - to the state prosecutor, who is investigating, according to the NRA's Andrew Arulanandam ("We're cooperating fully," he said) and Brochin's opponent, Doug Riley.

"The state prosecutor's office called last night to ask whether I knew anything about it, and the answer is no," Riley said. "We didn't do it, nor know who did it, nor have an inkling who did it."

The NRA's "mix 'n' mingle" event is intended to give members the chance to meet Brochin and Kathy Klausmeier, both Democrats who received the NRA's endorsement. Klausmeier is named on the card, too. What about her opponent?

"We didn't have anything to do with it," Craig Borne said.

If the campaigns didn't send it, who would?

"The prosecutor's office asked me the same thing," Riley said. "I've been trying to figure it out myself. ... I have three theories. Somebody who voted for him because he said he would be a gun-control guy and found out he wasn't. ... Somebody within the Republican Party. He's a targeted senator," though he quickly dismissed that possibility. "If it came from the Republican Party, it would have an authority line on it. Because these are professionals. ... Third possibility, that Jim himself sent it out in order to create a story."

He went on to raise a fourth possibility: that the mailing wasn't illegal because the event is real, with most of the language swiped straight from an NRA e-mail promoting the shindig. (The "keeping assault weapons legal" swipe at Brochin seems to be the only embellishment.)

"If it is exactly what the NRA sent and then it was simply given wider distribution, it may not actually require an authority line," said Riley. A lawyer, he quickly reversed course: "But if a campaign's money is spent on anything, it requires the authority line."

Brochin said he assumes the mailing came from Riley or other Maryland Republicans, who have targeted him for defeat. His message to the sender: "Thank you for breaking the law and not having the guts to put an authority line on the piece."

This is The Sun, and we authorized this item

Leaving an authority line off campaign literature might sound like a piddling offense, and it gets treated that way if prosecutors chalk it up to an oversight. Often the cases aren't prosecuted. They can be handled as civil matters, with maximum fines of $5,000. But if prosecutors think the intention was to deceive, they can pursue criminal charges. A conviction carries a maximum $1,000 fine, up to a year in jail and - the biggie for politicos - ineligibility to hold office for four years.

(By the way, Steven Trostle, senior assistant state prosecutor, said he can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation.)

Apart from the album, you get diddly from Diddy

Sean Combs came to Baltimore yesterday - Diddy Day, per mayoral proclamation - to promote his new album and visit a middle school. He was not, repeat, NOT in town to answer questions unrelated to his album. So said his publicist. "Only album-related questions," she told the reporters gathered for a brief audience at the Hyatt Regency. Reporters should have been full of questions on that topic, since none had been given the chance to hear the album, appropriately titled Press Play. But you know how reporters are. Some still tried to sneak in other questions, about Jay-Z's boycott of Cristal, for one, The Sun's Rashod Ollison tells me. "Next question," the publicist said. "He won't answer that."

Maybe the publicist, who also tried to keep the news media out of the school, was just trying to make up for Philly, where Combs faulted his handlers earlier this week for failing to handle the press. He cursed out one of his publicists at a news conference there - "You ain't doing your BLEEPing job" - because reporters had asked questions unrelated to the album, The Philadelphia Daily News reported. Diddy spokeswoman Cara Donatto denied the Daily News report, telling that paper that Combs answered all questions he was asked.

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