Sun coverageScott Conwell, Crofton: Just about every article written about Gov. [Robert L.] Ehrlich [Jr.] discusses his political motivation behind his actions. Yet The Sun frequently does not print the political motivations of others who oppose him. For instance, in the article on stem cell politics, Ehrlich's approach is criticized by Sen. Paula C. Hollinger and former Gov. Harry Hughes. Nowhere does it mention that Hollinger is trying to break out from the pack in a run for Congress or that Hughes led the search committee to assist [Baltimore Mayor Martin] O'Malley in defeating Ehrlich. This appears to be a breach of journalistic ethics. Please comment.
Nitkin: Ehrlich is the most high-profile political figure in the state of Maryland who was elected governor in a state with a 2-1 Democratic advantage. He is now seeking re-election, and is raising unprecedented money for his bid, with [the] entire Democratic power structure aligned against him. Everything he does is geared toward how it affects his re-election chances -- it would be naive or irresponsible to think otherwise.
True, Hughes supports the measure. So does former Gov. Marvin Mandel, who has appeared at many stem cell events and is an Ehrlich supporter. In short, the political motives of the governor are far more interesting and newsworthy than those of other figures lower down on the political ladder. But when [Montgomery County Executive Douglas M.] Duncan, O'Malley, [Rep. Benjamin L.] Cardin and [former congressman and NAACP President Kweisi] Mfume take positions with heavy political overtones -- such as on school construction or sex offender legislation -- we report that as well.
Eric, Bel Air: Should we expect to see The Sun, prior to the '06 elections, do a detailed review of the history of Democratic Party control of the city of Baltimore and the results as they pertain to big issues such as crime and drug addiction, poverty and education? I've long found it odd that people seem to ignore the fact that the Democratic Party has maintained unfettered control of Baltimore politics and, in turn, social and economic policies, for several generations, yet now that a Republican sits in the governor's mansion for a few years, after 30-plus straight years of Democrat control there, too, the fingers all point at him.
Nitkin: Eric, you raise a valid question. You are certainly correct that Democrats have run Baltimore for decades. I would note that in my experience, the closer you get to local government, the less partisan issues become: There's no Democrat or Republican way to pick up trash, plow streets or fill potholes. But that said, there certainly is a Democratic leaning toward supporting the various unions that represent the workers who do those jobs and others.
The fingers point to the person who is mayor on the problems in the city, and to the governor on problems of the state, regardless of the party affiliation of the person holding office. For all the generations you cite, The Sun has aggressively covered many administrations, including those of Mandel, [William Donald] Schaefer and [Parris N.] Glendening. None of those former governors would think The Sun gave them an easy time. The "fingers" you think are pointing at Ehrlich have pointed at governor after governor.
Kara, Baltimore: Why has The Sun and other media focused more on O'Malley's selection of a running mate, rather than Duncan's rolling out a detailed education plan for the state, from Head Start through higher education, which would seem to most people more important in choosing a governor?
Nitkin: We have covered Duncan's plans. For those who want more detail, they are available on his Web site. Like any campaign documents, they appear to lack specifics in some areas. When asked how he would pay for his programs, Duncan's answer is that growth in the state budget will accommodate them.
Campaign promises are easy -- such as Ehrlich's pledge to bring slots to Maryland. What matters more is a governor's ability to get his plan through the legislature. By contrast, the selection of a running mate is a concrete decision -- not a future promise -- that can be explored in detail. And we in the media love to do so, knowing full well that voters don't make their decisions based on running mates.
Bill Eber, Upperco: Will The Sun be looking into the Giant and union lobbying effort, or will the paper predictably concentrate its efforts on the Wal-Mart contributions to Ehrlich?
Nitkin: Frankly, I don't think much more looking needs to be done. Giant supermarkets and various unions lobbied heavily for the so-called Wal-Mart bill, or Fair Share Health Care Act, requiring companies with at least 10,000 employees to spend 8 percent of payroll on health care or pay the difference to the state. Their efforts were instrumental in convincing a Democrat-controlled legislature to pass the bill heading into an election year.
Ehrlich received money prior to the 2005 legislative session from a Wal-Mart-hosted fundraiser. But no one is insinuating that that is the reason he vetoed the bill: The governor is a free-market, libertarian-leaning Republican who believes in less government regulation for business to foster economic growth. He's also no fan of organized labor. I'm certain he would have vetoed the bill even in the absence of any Wal-Mart-related contributions.
Bob, Mount Washington: There was the one article on the Cordish-Bethel AME "understanding." If that was a Republican who engineered a faith-based church to receive a bunch of money from a political backer, The Sun would have had a collective heart attack. Why isn't there more outrage from The Sun?
Nitkin: Actually, there were at least two articles, and there may well be more on their way. Newspapers are not in the business of getting "outraged" on the news pages. We report stories aggressively, thoroughly and with context. The paper broke this story, and I'm sure will stay on it.
Larry, Mt. Airy: Why isn't there more coverage ofr the "MD4Bush" scandal that appears to have been set up by the Democrats to embarrass the Ehrlich administration?
Nitkin: Sigh. What would a week be without an MD4Bush question? We'll write more about MD4Bush when news warrants. As we will about Joe Steffen, the longtime Ehrlich aide who has acknowledged that he was the governor's dirty tricks agent for years. As we will about Ed Miller, the governor's deputy chief of staff who created a business for the sole purpose of allowing disgraced and convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff to launder millions of dollars.