The public advocacy group Common Cause/Maryland called on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) last night to release a list of his golf partners, citing a report yesterday that Ohio's governor had been charged with four misdemeanors for not disclosing his golf outings.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R) faces a possible $1,000 fine on each count for not filing reports on at least 60 golf games paid for by others. Those games are considered gifts under Ohio law and must be disclosed.
When questioned about golf matches in the past, Ehrlich's aides have said the governor pays his own greens fees on the advice of the State Ethics Commission.
Common Cause Executive Director James Browning said there is no suggestion that Ehrlich violated any Maryland law, but the Ohio episode is a reminder that fairways and greens can be a haven for the elite to lobby politicians in private.
"It's important to know who plays with [Ehrlich] and who pays for it," Browning said. "Otherwise, there's the potential for lobbying in secret."
Shareese DeLeaver, Ehrlich's spokeswoman, said last night that the administration will consider Browning's request after conferring with the governor's legal counsel.
Ehrlich is an avid golfer who talks openly and with pride about his prowess on the links. In one of the state's tourism ads, he is shown giving golf tips to a stranger. In June, he partnered with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) at the Booz Allen Classic Pro-Am golf tournament.
Details about his charity and pro-am golf appearances, but not his private games, appear on copies of his calendar that are released to the media upon request.
In 2003, Ehrlich consulted the Ethics Commission, which advised him that he must pay his own way when he golfs in order to comply with a state law that prohibits elected officials from accepting free admission to sporting events.