Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s office has declined a public advocacy group's request to disclose the governor's golf partners, saying that he plays mostly for recreation and does not view the golf course as "an office in the rough."
The request was made last month by Common Cause Maryland after reports that Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R) had been charged with four misdemeanors for failing to disclose golf outings that had been paid for by others.
Ehrlich spokesman Paul E. Schurick said the Maryland governor, by contrast, has made a practice of paying for his personal rounds of golf, "regardless of whether the law requires it."
Ehrlich's office released a list of 18 charity golf tournaments -- including four since June -- in which the governor has participated since taking office in 2003. On those occasions, Ehrlich (R) represented the state in a public capacity, Schurick wrote in a letter to the advocacy group last week. But he said that Ehrlich's other outings are his own business.
"The private outings with friends are just that -- private -- and will remain so," Schurick wrote.
James Browning, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, said yesterday that he was disappointed in the response.
"Our core concern wasn't really answered, which is that the golf course becomes a substitute for the governor's office," Browning said. Although Ehrlich's office says the governor is paying for his personal golf outings, "we have no way of knowing that," Browning added.
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. But he rarely mixes business with pleasure, Schurick said.
"It is well known that the governor is an athlete who enjoys working out and playing sports," Schurick wrote. "While I am not a golfer, I understand why a competitor like Governor Ehrlich would enjoy the many challenges the game presents.
"Indeed, the governor is competitive on the golf course, continually working on his game, but still enjoying the friendship of his playing partners. Further, unlike some golfers, the governor does not use a round of golf to 'network,' 'conduct business' or 'as an office in the rough.' "
Schurick also noted that Maryland law requires people who "lobby" the governor in any venue to register with the State Ethics Commission.
"The governor takes his ethical responsibilities seriously and expects everyone to do the same," Schurick wrote. "Thank you for your interest in this matter."