Correction to This Article
A Jan. 5 Metro article about what local officials would do with campaign contributions from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff misspelled the name of the press secretary for Sen. George Allen (R-Va.). His name is David Snepp.

Ehrlich, Other Local Officials to Return Abramoff Funds

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 5, 2006

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced yesterday that he will return $16,000 in campaign contributions he received from disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"I'm going to give it to the Helping Up Mission in Baltimore," the Republican governor told reporters at a news event early yesterday.

Later in the day, the Ehrlich campaign's political director, Bo Harmon, said the governor learned that under state law he could not legally donate the money to a charity, so the checks "were returned today to Mr. and Mrs. Abramoff in accordance with campaign finance law."

Ehrlich was one of dozens to announce yesterday that he would be returning contributions from the lobbyist. Abramoff pleaded guilty to three criminal counts Tuesday and two more yesterday as part of a major federal corruption investigation. He and his associates gave widely to politicians on Capitol Hill, most prolifically to Republicans.

Other local officials who renounced their Abramoff ties include Rep. Thomas M. Davis III and Rep. Eric I. Cantor, Virginia Republicans who said they would send his contributions to charities. The Maryland Republican Party released a statement saying it would return the $4,020 it received from Abramoff and his wife.

The GOP statement called on Maryland Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, all Democrats, to return donations they received from Abramoff associates and Indian tribes that were his clients. None received direct contributions from the lobbyist.

Mikulski's office said she will donate all tribal money, about $5,000 according to federal election records, to the American Indian College Fund. David Ransom, a spokesman for Hoyer, said the congressman has no plans to return several thousands in tribal donations. Sarbanes aides did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment. He received a single $250 contribution from an Abramoff associate in his last campaign.

David Sneep, a spokesman for Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), said the senator does not plan to return $2,000 he accepted from the Saginaw Chippewa tribe in 2004.

"To do so would suggest that the tribe has done something wrong, and they haven't," Sneep said.

For Ehrlich, the unfolding drama in Washington comes as he is rolling out his agenda for the legislative session that gets underway next week. Appearing at an event on initiatives for the disabled yesterday afternoon, he was asked to detail his dealings with Abramoff.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said this was inevitable.

"What's happening on Capitol Hill is affecting him," Miller said. "He was part of that crew. Trained under Newt Gingrich. Brought these same partisans to be part of his administration."

Specifically, Miller referred to a top Ehrlich aide who figures into the scandal and who was said to have been cooperating with federal investigators. Charging documents released Tuesday prominently mention the company chartered by Ehrlich's deputy chief of staff, Edward B. Miller.

For several months in 2003, Edward Miller was the registered agent for GrassRoots Interactive in Silver Spring before turning it over to a lobbying associate of Abramoff's. The documents say Abramoff established the company and then encouraged clients to use its public relations and other services. Abramoff would then cause the company to "charge prices that incorporated huge profit margins for the purpose of generating funds and concealing kickbacks" to Abramoff, the documents show.

Edward Miller's attorney has said previously that his client did nothing illegal. Miller did not return a call to his office yesterday.

Ehrlich backed his aide yesterday, telling the Associated Press: "Ed Miller is a tremendous young man. He is [deputy] chief of staff and will remain chief of staff."

Staff writer Lisa Rein contributed to this report.

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