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When Ehrlich's Day Needs Saving, He Looks to Hamilton

By Matthew Mosk and John Wagner
The Washington Post
Sunday, March 13, 2005; Page C04

If Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) is in a jam, you won't have to look far to find David B. Hamilton.

Hamilton is the governor's good-natured Mr. Fix-It, and he was back in Annapolis late last week as Ehrlich's top aides plotted strategy for the release of thousands of pages of e-mails written by, and to, Joseph Steffen -- the notorious Ehrlich political operative and self-described "Prince of Darkness" who boasted about efforts to "give float" to rumors about the governor's chief political rival, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D).

_____Related Articles_____
Excerpts From Steffen's E-Mails, Documents (The Washington Post, Mar 13, 2005)
Ehrlich Discounts Steffen's Influence (The Washington Post, Mar 13, 2005)
_____Maryland Government_____
Ehrlich Discounts Steffen's Influence (The Washington Post, Mar 13, 2005)
Cerebral Sarbanes Aloof to Limelight (The Washington Post, Mar 12, 2005)
Steffen E-Mails Imply Closer Link to Ehrlich (The Washington Post, Mar 12, 2005)
Sarbanes to Retire From Senate (The Washington Post, Mar 12, 2005)
Full Report

This was just the latest project for Hamilton, a Baltimore lawyer who has known Ehrlich since 1983, when the two joined the law firm of Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Schriver together. After Ehrlich went to Congress in 1994, Hamilton emerged as one of his pal's most loyal defenders.

When Ehrlich was sued for legal malpractice in 1996, it was Hamilton who leapt to his defense, telling newspapers that Ehrlich's work record was without blemish.

"Bob is, in addition to being a former [Ober, Kaler] partner, a fine and able trial lawyer," Hamilton said.

After serving as chief counsel to Ehrlich's transition team in 2002, Hamilton faded into the background, focusing his attention on his new role as head of Ober, Kaler's government relations practice.

But his name surfaced as one of the founders of the Maryland Economic and Business Development Coalition Inc., which sought to defray the cost of business recruitment efforts during the Preakness Stakes last year.

The nonprofit group, which has since disbanded, sought as much as $50,000 apiece from Annapolis lobbyists and business interests in exchange for golf dates and private receptions with the governor, including an event at the state's luxury box at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Then, just a few months ago, Hamilton was on the radio defending Ehrlich's decision to cut off two Baltimore Sun writers from access to state officials. When the Sun filed a lawsuit against the governor, Hamilton was at Ehrlich's side, helping prepare the successful drive to get the suit tossed out.

The Sun plans to file an appeal this week.

Ehrlich has said Hamilton has not been paid for his efforts, although the governor did grant him a seat on the board of trustees overseeing the State Retirement and Pension System of Maryland.

Watching Out for the Old Guard

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) jokingly suggested that fellow senators secure their belongings in their desks on the floor after Wednesday's session.

The reason: the Maryland Society of Senates Past, a group of former senators, would be gathering there as part of a reunion that night.

Miller was quick to point out that many of the apparent could-be thieves would be fellow Democrats, which prompted a voice from the floor to note that there would be few Republicans.

Miller then made reference to one prominent Republican who once served in the chamber: Jervis S. Finney, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s chief legal counsel, whose activities of late have included an investigation into the fallout surrounding former Ehrlich aide Joseph Steffen.

"Finney's out conducting an investigation," Miller told his colleagues, with a hearty laugh. "I don't know if he'll be available to be here."

Union Hopes Trip Back to '80s Pays Off

A union advocating higher pay for Maryland's 3,000 home care workers employed a creative tactic last week: focusing lawmakers' and reporters' attention on 1986, the last year the workers got a raise.

Pending legislation would increase the daily reimbursement rate for the workers, who serve Maryland's disabled adults and children and the elderly.

To highlight the issue, the Service Employees International Union distributed compact discs with 1980s hits -- including Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" and Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon" -- and shared factoids about the year 1986.

Among them: The cost of a first-class stamp was 22 cents, and the cost of a gallon of milk was $2.22.

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