State GOP Cries Foul Over Maryland Fund Ads

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By John Wagner and Ann E. Marimow
Friday, October 20, 2006

An independent group funded by Democratic and Democratic-leaning interest groups has spent close to $1 million on television and radio ads comparing Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to President Bush , according to a report made public yesterday.

The Maryland Fund, a so-called 527 group, reported receiving $600,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; $290,000 from the Democratic Governors Association; $160,000 from the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association; and $33,000 from the Maryland State Teachers Association.

The group's ads have sought to link Ehrlich, the state's first Republican governor in a generation, to the policies of Bush, whose popularity lags behind Ehrlich's in Maryland. The not-so-subtle message is underscored by the group's Web site, http://www.ehrlichisbush.com/ .

The group drew fire yesterday from the Maryland Republican Party. Its chairman, John Kane , speaking at a news conference, accused it of "operating illegally."

Among Kane's complaints was that the group had failed to file a quarterly report, due earlier this week, to the Internal Revenue Service detailing its contributors.

John Rouse , the group's executive director, said that he had encountered a glitch when filing information electronically with the IRS but that a paper report had been filed that was not immediately available on the IRS Web site. Rouse provided a copy of the report to The Washington Post.

Kane said he also saw "strong evidence" of possible coordination between the Maryland Fund and the campaign of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley , the Democratic gubernatorial hopeful. Such coordination between campaigns and 527 groups is illegal.

In 2004, Democrats raised similar complaints about another 527, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which ran ads challenging Democratic presidential contender John F. Kerry 's military credentials.

As evidence, the state GOP cited a Post article from last month that disclosed that one of those working for the fund was Jim Cauley, a consultant to O'Malley's 1999 mayoral campaign. More recently, he managed the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Rouse said the GOP claim of collusion was "frivolous and specious."

That sentiment was echoed by O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese , who called the GOP news conference "a desperate stunt."

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