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MD Dems give Abramoff film two thumbs up

A new documentary about Jack Abramoff, out tomorrow, already has a cult following: Maryland Democrats. The party of Gov. Martin O'Malley is thrilled to see rival candidate Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. pop up in the movie and its trailer. Ehrlich is in a smiling snapshot with the disgraced lobbyist, who is now serving four years in federal prison (min 2:13 on the link).

The Democrats say Ehrlich's connection to Abramoff "runs deep," pointing to a Hanukkah party Abramoff attended at the Governor's mansion and a $16,000 donation that Ehrlich accepted from Abramoff. Ehrlich returned the money after the Abramoff scandal broke. The two also have a mutual friend, Edward B. Miller.

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Miller was Ehrlich's deputy chief of staff during the 2003-2007 administration. When Ehrlich was defeated in 2006 and launched the Baltimore law office of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, Miller came along, though he has since left. Before joining the Ehrlich administration, Miller started and then sold the firm Grassroots Interactive, which critics have said was used to launder money for Abramoff. The firm came up in the Abramoff investigation, but Miller was not criminally charged.

"Casino Jack and Lobbyist Bob, the cell-blockbuster of the year," Maryland Democratic Party Executive Director Travis Tazelaar gloated in a press release today.

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Asked about the Abramoff movie after a campaign event this morning in Baltimore, Ehrlich burst into laughter. "It's too goofy," Ehrlich said of the Democrats promotion of the film. "When you are unable to sell or market your candidate, you start this stuff early."

But what about his ties to Abramoff? There are none, Ehrlich said, still laughing, "or they would have found it last time."

The documentary, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, is directed by Alex Gibney, who won acclaim for his film about the escapades and collapse of Enron.

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