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Finally, O’Malley talks about the scandals swirling around Clinton

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley attended a fundraiser for the Merrimack County Democrats at a bookstore in Concord, N.H. (Video: Twitter/Liisa Rajala, New Hampshire Business Review)
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CONCORD, N.H. -- Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley broke his silence Friday on the controversy swirling around Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of private e-mail accounts while secretary of state.

O’Malley stopped short of directly criticizing the former secretary of state, saying he is unfamiliar with “the rules that govern the e-mail procedures on the federal level.” But he said that while he was governor, he complied with “many, many” public information requests involving e-mail and that he worked to make government’s actions more transparent to the public.

"Openness and transparency are required of governing in the modern age," he said.

O’Malley, who is testing the waters for a 2016 presidential bid, was peppered with questions from reporters about the controversy -- and about whether he could be a viable Clinton challenger -- during an appearance at a downtown bookstore. The controversy has prompted some Democrats to take a fresh look at alternatives to Clinton

“Openness and transparency are the wave of the future,” O’Malley, who left office in January, told reporters. “It is the best elixir, and it is the better way to go.”

The State Department said this week that it is reviewing tens of thousands of pages of Clinton’s e-mails to determine whether they can be released to the public. On Twitter on Wednesday, Clinton said: “I want the public to see my e-mail.”

Asked if the e-mail controversy presented him with an opportunity, O’Malley said: “I think in our party there is always a demand for new ideas and for a conversation about the challenges we face.” He reiterated that he plans to make a decision about a 2016 White House bid by spring.

O’Malley largely sidestepped a question about another recent controversy stemming from foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

“I like Hillary Clinton, and I respect Hillary Clinton, and I didn’t come here to talk about Secretary Clinton," O'Malley said. "I can tell you that in any of my dealings with her, or with the president, they have always been decent and straight up and honest with me. And I also know for a fact that that foundation has done a lot of good work. ... I’ll leave to them to answer more specific questions.”

O’Malley said that if he moves forward with a White House run, he would offer “a break from the failed policies of the past,” including failures by Democrats.

Asked to be specific, he said the party needs to be more “clear-throated” on immigration reform and firmer on Wall Street regulation. He also questioned why President Obama had not taken executive action to change rules governing when workers are entitled to overtime pay.

Asked if there are specific issues where he differs with Clinton, O’Malley punted.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not sure what ideas she’s proposing as part of her candidacy this year.”

O'Malley then noted that he thinks Democrats needs to push forward on banking reform, including reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era measure measure that separated commercial and investment banking.

The act was repealed in 1999, under President Bill Clinton. Some have argued the repeal contributed to the 2008 global credit crisis.

"That's a very important issue that's out there right now," O'Malley said. "I'm not sure where [Hillary Clinton] stands on it."

O’Malley’s appearance at the bookstore here drew about 40 people, along with a couple of dozen reporters, to an event that served as a fundraiser for the Merrimack County Democrats.

The stop was of one of several planned Friday and Saturday, including a meeting with Democratic activists Friday night in Manchester and a fundraiser for the state Democratic party at a private home Saturday in Manchester.

O’Malley was in the early nominating state of South Carolina last weekend and has two trips planned to Iowa in coming weeks.