Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s tax returns show private sector has been lucrative

Gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. released tax records a day before his top opponent.
Gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. released tax records a day before his top opponent. (Jacquelyn Martin/associated Press)
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By John Wagner and Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 29, 2010

Former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and his wife, Kendel, earned close to $2.5 million in the three years after he lost the governorship, according to partial tax returns.

In that same period, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and first lady Katie O'Malley collected over $900,000, and the couple is on pace to earn more than $1.2 million in state salary and pension payouts during four years in the governor's mansion.

In back-to-back releases of tax data on Friday and Saturday by Maryland's leading gubernatorial candidates, the Ehrlich campaign sought to portray the earnings of Maryland's former chief executive as typical of those for a governor who moves to the private sector.

But O'Malley campaign manager Tom Russell used the comparison to charge that Ehrlich's $734,000 in annual pay showed he's "out of touch with the needs of working families in Maryland." Russell also returned to a line of criticism O'Malley began early this summer, saying the next step for Ehrlich is to "tell Marylanders which clients paid him that much and why."

The largest share of the Ehrlichs' earnings came from the law firm that the former governor joined following his 2006 defeat by O'Malley. On joint returns, the Ehrlichs also reported income from Kendel Ehrlich's service on the board of an Annapolis-based bank and from a radio show the couple co-hosted on Baltimore's WBAL.

Ehrlich, who is trying to regain the job from O'Malley this year, was under no legal obligation to release the tax returns. But he said in a statement that he was making good on an early campaign pledge.

"Kendel and I have always conducted ourselves in a very public and transparent way, while always respecting the fundamental and appropriate lines of privacy that every family deserves," Ehrlich said.

Audrey Scott, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said Democrats' attacks on Ehrlich were baseless. "It is typical for Democrats in this state to instinctually attack someone for being successful in the private sector," she said.

O'Malley had promised to release his returns before November. But his decision to do so Saturday followed the move by Ehrlich to release his Friday.

The O'Malleys' joint filings reflect the governor's $150,000 annual salary, first lady Catherine Curran O'Malley's roughly $113,000 yearly pay as a District Court judge in Baltimore and about $60,000 in annual pension payments the governor has begun collecting from his time as Baltimore mayor and council member.

From 2007 through 2009, the couple reported just over $903,000 in total earnings and paid roughly $64,000 in Maryland taxes and $204,500 in federal taxes. They donated about $20,000 to charity in that period, mostly in 2009.

The couple's state pay and pension benefits have remained nearly identical in 2010, public records show.

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