Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has authorized the hiring of a prominent former federal prosecutor to lead a fight to revoke the lobbying license of Gerard E. Evans, who dominated the lobbying business in Annapolis until he was jailed for defrauding corporate clients.
Ehrlich (R), who campaigned on a promise to clean up "the culture of corruption" in the Maryland State House, has agreed to make $30,000 available to hire Stephen H. Sachs, a former U.S. attorney revered as a prosecutor of public corruption and white-collar crime.
If he agrees to take the job, Sachs would represent the Maryland State Ethics Commission, which voted in October to permanently bar Evans from lobbying state lawmakers. Evans has appealed the decision; a hearing in the matter is scheduled for March 24.
"The Ethics Commission asked for help. The governor and his legal counsel . . . felt it was the right thing to do," Ehrlich spokesman Paul E. Schurick said. "The Ethics Commission needs to have the ability to be an enforcer and, in this case, the outside counsel is needed to play the role of enforcer."
Sachs, 68, is a former Maryland attorney general who served as U.S. attorney in Maryland under President Lyndon B. Johnson. He did not return calls yesterday to his home and office.
Evans declined to comment. His attorney, Dan Clements, said Sachs's hiring would do nothing to strengthen the state's case against Evans.
"They can hire five former attorney generals; it isn't going to change the law," Clements said. "The commission is wrong, and their opinion lacks a serious legal foundation for their actions."
Evans was indicted in 1999 and convicted in 2000 of defrauding clients of more than $400,000. Prosecutors accused Evans of conspiring to increase his earnings by hyping the threat of legislation that would hurt his clients financially. Evans served 18 months in federal prison and a halfway house before his release in May.
After Evans's conviction, the state enacted a law giving the Ethics Commission the power to prohibit individuals from lobbying if they were convicted of felony crimes related to their profession.
When Evans was released, he immediately registered to return to the State House. The former chief of staff to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) has been hired by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association in the fight to legalize slot machines. He is also working for the Prince George's County Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing Montgomery County firefighters and Peter Angelos, a lawyer who owns the Baltimore Orioles of Major League Baseball.
Upon learning that Evans had registered to lobby, Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) asked Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D) whether Evans could legally do so under the new law. Curran's office opined that the law could not be applied retroactively to Evans.
A few months later, the Ethics Commission permanently barred Evans from lobbying. The commission said its application of the law was triggered by Evans's May registration.
Evans immediately appealed, and a question arose about who would represent the Ethics Commission because Curran's office wrote an opinion agreeing with Evans's position. Evans also worked for Curran during a long-ago political campaign.
Meanwhile, a state senator wants to strengthen the very law Evans is challenging. Sen. J. Robert Hooper (R-Harford) introduced a bill yesterday that would take away the Ethics Commission's discretion to revoke the license of a disgraced lobbyist and make disbarment automatic. The bill would not apply retroactively.
Staff writer Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.