Ehrlich earned nearly $2.5 million after leaving office

O'Malley to release tax returns today

August 27, 2010|By Annie Linskey, The Baltimore Sun

Former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and his wife, Kendel, have made nearly $2.5 million since he left office at the beginning of 2007, most of it from his position as a partner in the Baltimore office of a North Carolina law firm.

They've also paid hefty tax bills, giving the federal, state and local governments $870,000 in that time, and donated $36,000 to charity.

Ehrlich, who is trying to win back the governor's office, said in a statement that he and his wife released the information out of a commitment to be "very public and transparent." News organizations, including The Baltimore Sun, requested the information.

Democrats, who have attempted to portray Ehrlich as a wealthy lobbyist for special interests who is out of touch with ordinary Marylanders, can be expected to use the disclosure to hammer that point.

Ehrlich has described himself as a "rainmaker" for the Baltimore office of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.

But Democrats say he was using his job as a "public affairs specialist" to quietly peddle influence. In one radio ad, the O'Malley campaign replays a phrase Ehrlich used in describing his post-State Circle life.

"We made money, for us, a lot of money," Ehrlich said on WYPR-FM.

Not his choice

Ehrlich campaign spokesman Henry Fawell stressed that Ehrlich did not aspire to private sector employment in 2007, but would have preferred to remain in the governor's mansion, where he made about $150,000 a year.

"He looks forward to joining public service again next year," Fawell said.

The Maryland Republican Party, anticipating Democratic criticism, compiled the public-sector salaries of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley family and several relatives and in-laws, and concluded they have made about $2.3 million "on the taxpayer's dime" in the past four years.

O'Malley's wife, Katie Curran O'Malley, is a District Court judge, her uncle is a Baltimore city councilman and her father is a retired Maryland attorney general. O'Malley's brother worked for Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. before leaving earlier this year to join the gubernatorial campaign.

"It is typical for Democrats in this state to instinctually attack someone for being successful in the private sector," state GOP Chairwoman Audrey Scott said in a statement.

It was unclear what she was referring to, because Maryland Democrats had not released any attack. O'Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said Friday night that the decision to compile O'Malley family's salaries shows just how "worried" the Ehrlich campaign is about how the former governor's income will be perceived.

The Ehrlich campaign invited reporters to look at the couple's federal 1040 tax forms, one accompanying federal schedule and Maryland tax forms for three hours on Friday afternoon.

Detailed information, including W2 forms and other schedules, was not provided. Reporters were not permitted to make copies, scans or photographs of the materials. The practice is standard; other politicians, such as billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have allowed reporters to review returns but not take them home.

O'Malley promised to release his returns Saturday morning, using a similar arrangement. Much of his earnings are already known: He makes $150,000 as governor, and his wife earns $127,252 as a judge.

It is also possible that the governor has received some income from CD and ticket sales from O'Malley's March, his Celtic rock band.

Joint returns

The Ehrlichs have filed their returns jointly for at least the past five years. They turned in the 2009 return Friday, having filed for an extension in April. Andy Barth, a campaign spokesman, said the Ehrlichs filed late to be sure that all the details were accurate when reporters reviewed the documents.

The returns show that the couple made $821,641 last year. Nearly all the income came from Robert Ehrlich's position at the law firm where he earned $734,663. The couple earned more in 2008, reporting $890,463 in total income with $774,059 from the law firm. In 2007, Ehrlich's first year in the private sector after leaving the governor's mansion, the couple earned $787,000, with $716,199 coming from Womble.

Maryland's median household income was $70,482 in 2008, according to census figures. It was $52,029 for the country.

The provided documents did not detail how much the Ehrlichs earn from their weekly radio show on WBAL. Barth said that most of the earnings the couple reported in the entry for partnerships and S-corporations came from the radio show.

In that entry, which also includes income from speaking engagements, they reported $31,000 in 2009, $58,000 in 2008 and $11,000 in 2007, the first year the show aired. Barth could not give a reason for why the amounts varied so dramatically.

Kendel Ehrlich's compensation for serving on the board of BankAnnapolis was $45,000 in 2009, $49,000 in 2008 and $37,000 in 2007. Before that, when she was first lady, she also held a position at Comcast.

The campaign released a list of 124 charities to which the couple has contributed since 2007. They've given generously to Princeton University, Robert Ehrlich's alma mater. Most checks ranged from $100 to $250; but the couple gave more than $1,000 each to the American Red Cross; The Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne; Gilman School; Goodwill Industry and the Towson University Foundation.

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