Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is pushing back against Democratic charges that he received donated services in violation of election laws, saying that questions from the State Board of Elections are unwarranted because he is not technically a candidate for office.
A lawyer for Ehrlich said in an April 28 letter to the elections board that "the entire premise" of an inquiry that began because of Democratic concerns is "fundamentally flawed."
Ehrlich announced last month that he'll try to win back his old job from Gov. Martin O'Malley, the Democrat who ousted him in November 2006.
Jared DeMarinis, state director of candidacy and campaign finance, had asked Ehrlich to provide information about whether his law firm, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, was effectively donating to his campaign without reporting it.
The DeMarinis request followed a push by the Maryland Democratic Party, which called Womble's Baltimore office "the de facto campaign headquarters" for Ehrlich and accused Henry Fawell, who works for Womble's strategic communications group, of improperly serving as Ehrlich's campaign spokesman while on the clock at the law firm.
In his letter to Ehrlich last month, DeMarinis asserted that the former governor is a candidate because he has maintained a political fund-raising committee. The former governor has kept the committee since leaving office.
But Ehrlich attorney John H. West III says that in the eyes of the state, no one becomes a candidate until filing with the Board of Elections. Ehrlich won't do that until July. Therefore, West wrote, DeMarinis' questions about how Ehrlich might have used Womble's resources are moot.
In a seven-page letter, West provides some information about the law firm, including the fact that Greg Massoni, Ehrlich's former press secretary, resigned from Womble on March 31. Several other Ehrlich aides-turned-Womble employees, including Fawell and Paul Schurick, have reduced their firm schedules to part-time now that the gubernatorial campaign is heating up, the letter said.
Democrats also want Ehrlich to suspend his weekly WBAL radio show. The station's attorneys have said Ehrlich is not in violation of FCC rules because, under the definition the commission uses, he's not an official candidate.