Amidst all the press coverage about the snowstorm presently bombarding us, a story was reported that you may have missed. The Maryland Democrat Party filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. The hot political topic for the last few weeks has been whether or not Ehrlich will run for Governor against Martin O'Malley.
The gist of the Democrats' complaint is that Ehrlich said the following on a television show called Political Pulse on WBFF Fox-45 on April 3, 2009:
"We have one applicant, Cordish obviously, that followed the law, that dotted their i's, crossed their t's, and Magna did not, which is why they are now the lone applicant in Anne Arundel County."
So, what's the problem with this statement? According to the Democrats, Ehrlich should have disclosed that members of law firm where he works represents Cordish. They claim that failure to do so violated the FCC's Payola Rules. Whether there was such a violation requires closer examination.
First of all, was Ehrlich paid by WBFF Fox-45? Was he an employee of the broadcaster? The Baltimore Sun article says that Ehrlich was a regular on the Political Pulse show. While Ehrlich may have been paid for his appearance on the show, in all likelihood he was an independent contractor rather than an employee. But, let's assume that he was an employee of WBFF Fox-45.
The next question is whether Ehrlich was paid by Cordish to make the above statement. Ehrlich's firm was paid to represent Cordish with community relations regarding their bid for a slots license in Anne Arundel County.
Cordish stated that Ehrlich was not hired by him; Paul Schurick--Ehrlich's former Communications Director--and the Womble Carlyle communications team was. That, in and of itself, should settle the issue.
Moreover, the comment Ehrlich made does not rise to the level of "airing material" in return for payment. It was simply a statement of fact. Cordish had followed state law in submitting its bid; whereas, Magna did not pay the slots license fee. The comment was made by Ehrlich on a political commentary show. The Democrats would have to show that the statement was material paid for by Cordish for Ehrlich to say on television. When you say it out loud, it sounds even more far-fetched.
So, why would the Democrat Party make such a complaint? The obvious answer is that they feel threatened by an Ehrlich candidacy for governor in 2010. One tried and true political tactic is to discredit a rival before the person even enters the race.
It is obvious that this is the motivation behind the Democrat Party's FCC complaint. If the complaint is found to be valid, the Democrat Party will use it against Ehrlich to impugn his integrity. To take the step of trying to use a federal agency to act on a complaint against Ehrlich shows the fear that the Democrats have of his candidacy.
We will see if President Obama's FCC takes any action on this frivolous complaint. If the FCC does act against WBFF Fox-45 or Ehrlich, the public should see this for what it is-the misuse of public tax dollars by Maryland Democrats to score political points.