O'Malley pledges no contact with felon lobbyists

Without using names, remarks point to Ehrlich associates Evans, Bereano

November 01, 2006|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley promised yesterday that if he is elected governor, neither he nor his running mate will meet with lobbyists who have been convicted of felonies, a stab at two prominent Annapolis paid advocates who are close to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Ehrlich, O'Malley's Republican opponent in the governor's race, campaigned in 2002 on a pledge to end the "culture of corruption" in Annapolis, but the mayor is accusing him of doing anything but.

"When Governor Ehrlich took office he continued business as usual, dealing with convicted lobbyists," the pledge says. "Rather than keeping his campaign pledge to end what U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Motz called a `culture of corruption,' that culture's two most notorious examples are among the Governor's most visible and vocal supporters."

The pledge doesn't name names, but O'Malley was referring to Bruce C. Bereano, one of Annapolis' top lobbyists who was convicted in 1995 of mail fraud, and Gerard E. Evans, another top advocate who was convicted of fraud in 2000.

A few minutes after O'Malley released his pledge, Ehrlich was sitting in a sport utility vehicle outside a hangar at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, where he was to receive the endorsement of the airport's firefighters. While he waited for the endorsement ceremony, he and his top aides spent the time chatting with the firefighters' lobbyist: Bereano.

When told about the pledge, Ehrlich guffawed and clapped mockingly.

"I'm touched," Ehrlich said. "He's been running for 6 years, 11 months. It's 6 days left, and they came up with that?"

Ehrlich said if O'Malley is serious about shutting out Evans and Bereano, he should return all the campaign contributions he has received from their clients. Until recently, Evans represented the state's trial lawyers, who are major donors to O'Malley. He has also worked on behalf of racing interests, who support the governor's slot-machine push.

Bereano said O'Malley's statement says more about his character than about what he would be like as governor. Bereano, who served a 10-month sentence and paid a $30,000 fine more than a decade ago, said the mayor must not put much stock in giving people a second chance.

"It clearly shows he is not a man of compassion, understanding and sympathy, and I guess he lives in a world where everyone is perfect," Bereano said.

"His 12th-hour good government policy pronouncement is no more than electioneering hypocrisy," he added. "During the course of his being mayor, I met with him on several occasions on behalf of lobbying clients who had business in the city, and I guess it was OK to meet with me then even though my status was the same as it is now."

Evans did not return a phone message yesterday.

After Evans' conviction in 2000, the General Assembly passed a law giving the state Ethics Commission greater authority to punish lobbyists for illegal or unethical behavior, including banning them from lobbying. But because Bereano's and Evans' convictions came before the new law, they have continued to work in Annapolis.

The Maryland Democratic Party also pushed the issue of whether Ehrlich has ended the "culture of corruption" with the launch of a new Web site, whois bobehrlich.com, which purports to link him with 33 people the party says have an unsavory influence on the state government.

andy.green@baltsun.com

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