Jon Cardin and Ski Money

Screenshot of Instagram photo of Jon Cardin and rapper Ski Money, who endorsed the candidate for attorney general on Instagram and Twitter. (Instagram screen capture / June 5, 2014)

Most political endorsements touted by candidates typically elicit yawns.

Until they garner gasps.

Del. Jon Cardin, a Democratic candidate for Maryland attorney general, rejected an impromptu endorsement he landed last week from a rapper with a rap sheet.

At a fundraiser, Cardin posed for a photo with Ski Money — aka Lawrence S. Christian — without knowing of the 37-year-old's criminal record. The rapper posted the photo to Instagram and Twitter with a note encouraging his followers to vote for Cardin.

The candidate briefly retweeted the message but later took it down after learning that Christian has several convictions and faces charges of human trafficking — charges that Christian's lawyer calls "unfounded."

Cardin is not the first candidate to have to distance himself from an endorsement gone wild.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican Sen. John McCain was forced to reject the endorsements of two preachers because of their controversial comments about Jews and Muslims.

In the same race, then-Sen. Barack Obama had to break away from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor for two decades, over unpatriotic comments that the Democratic candidate called "outrageous."

Mitt Romney never rejected the endorsement of rocker Ted Nugent. But the Republican presidential contender in 2012 had to distance himself from the singer's comments about Democrats.

It's not always an official endorsement that candidates have to repudiate. Sometimes campaign donations — another sign of support — have been returned to backers who ran into trouble.

Two candidates for Maryland governor in 2006 — incumbent Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Democratic challenger Doug Duncan — returned campaign contributions from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

At last week's fundraiser, former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon said Christian was telling candidates he could rally the support of young voters from a fan base that appears to include 107,000 Twitter followers.

It's easy to see the allure of such a promise, says one political expert. But there's also peril.

"In the era of social media, politicians who are eager to move at the instant pace of retweeting something from a celebrity figure (with many Twitter followers) face the risk of 'accepting an endorsement' from someone they hardly know, or even know anything about," Johns Hopkins University political science professor Samuel A. Chambers wrote in an email.

ddonovan@baltsun.com