The war on credibility continued Friday with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich airing a new attack ad in the Baltimore area Friday that alleges Gov. Martin O'Malley ordered his labor department to falsify a downbeat jobs report.
It's not a huge surprise that the issue would find its way on TV. Ehrlich on Monday released a stack of embarrassing emails recording how stressed-out staffers struggled to do damage control after a negative jobs report went up briefly on the state's website.
Those emails show tortured efforts at spin in the agency, but do not directly implicate O'Malley or anyone in the governor's office. Ehrlich, however, clearly hopes to use the issue to support a narrative his campaign is trying to establish: O'Malley can't be trusted to steer the state's economy.
Rick Abbruzzese, O'Malley's deputy campaign manager, noted that so far this year Maryland employers have added 33,000 jobs. He called the ad "desperate" and accused Ehrlich of "lashing out" because "he knows his 24-year political career is slipping away."
For those who missed the news story here's a quick synopsis: The state's labor department in August put out a report saying that Maryland's economy "stalled" in July. A sharp-eyed GOP staffer noticed that it was at odds with O'Malley's economic message and blasted out an email to supporters.
Shortly after, labor department employees pulled down the report, deleted the negative sounding language, and re-posted it. The agency head, Alexander Sanchez, explained the incident by saying that the initial jobs report was an unfinished draft never intended to be posted. The kicker is that the downbeat assessment proved accurate -- the July jobs numbers were revised from a net gain to a net loss.
Ehrlich, via a public information act request, obtained the emails that went back and forth between state staffers who were dealing with the dueling reports. Emails include such gems as Sanchez telling a staffer: "Call mw (sic) as soon as you know who posted this outrageous info" and agency communications director Bernie Kohn writing "Whatever we can do to make this disappear, we need to do it. That is coming straight from the top."
Ehrlich, in his ad, picks up on that last email and tries to pin job-gate directly on O'Malley. An announcer says: "O’Malley attempts a cover-up, falsifying the jobs report to help his campaign."
But there's a problem: The released emails don't support the notion that O'Malley was personally aware of the negative report or had anything to do with the decision to remove it from the state website. Kohn, a former Baltimore Sun editor, said in an interview that his orders came from Sanchez, not O'Malley. O'Malley was also questioned this week by reporters and repeatedly denied that he was aware of the negative report.
Announcer-After months of Martin O’Malley telling us that Maryland is moving forward.
Martin O’Malley- Moving Maryland forward
Announcer-This jobs reports tells the truth
Announcer-Maryland’s economy stalled
Announcer 2-We face an uphill struggle in trying to regain the jobs lost
Announcer-O’Malley attempts a cover-up, falsifying the jobs report to help his campaign
Announcer 2-Whatever we can do to make it disappear, we need to do it
Announcer 2-That’s coming straight from the top
Announcer-Martin O’Malley: First he makes stuff up. When caught, he covers stuff up
Announcer-We need a governor who tells the truth