A campaign account maintained by former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) was used to pay more than $100,000 last year to law firms involved in the criminal defense of his 2010 campaign manager, Paul E. Schurick, on charges related to voter suppression.
A campaign finance report filed last week by Ehrlich lists payments to at least two law firms known to have worked on Schurick’s defense.
In the past, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office has advised other candidates that they may use campaign funds to pay legal fees related to election-law cases but not to cover costs of actions unrelated to their candidacies.
Ehrlich reported two payments totaling $75,000 to the Law Offices of A. Dwight Pettit in July and November. Pettit, Schurick’s lead defense lawyer at trial, confirmed Monday that the payments were for his representation of Schurick.
Prior to that, in July, the month after Schurick was indicted, two payments totaling $25,578 were made to the law firm of DLA Piper.
Peter R. Zeidenberg, a lawyer with the firm, confirmed Monday that he was representing Schurick at the time. Zeidenberg declined to discuss payment arrangements but said, to his knowledge, no one else from the firm was doing work for the Ehrlich campaign during the period.
A spokesman for Ehrlich did not return calls seeking comment Friday afternoon and Monday morning.
Ehrlich lost the 2010 election to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) by more than 14 percentage points. Ehrlich now works for a Washington-based law firm and will soon start writing a weekly column for The Baltimore Sun.
The robocall in question, which Schurick acknowledged authorizing, was placed to about 112,000 voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, the state’s two largest majority-African American jurisdictions. With just hours before he polls closed, recipients were told by an unidentified woman that they could “relax” because O’Malley had been successful.
Schurick maintained at trial that the calls were meant to motivate Ehrlich supporters to vote. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
Julius Henson, a campaign consultant who has acknowledged orchestrating the call, is also scheduled to stand trial separately next month. He has pleaded not guilty to charges related to suppressing the vote.