Gov. Martin O'Malley unleashed a fresh attack ad this afternoon trying to associate his likely Republican opponent with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
In the 60-second ad, a woman talked about the gulf spill and then accuses Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of being a Big Oil Lobbyist who repeatedly voted with Big Oil in Congress. Listeners will also hear Ehrlich repeating the "Drill, Baby, Drill" refrain coined by his former lieutenant governor.
The O'Malley campaign says the 60-second ad will be up for at least a week and can be heard on 10 stations spread over Baltimore and the Eastern Shore.
Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth called the ad "dishonest, deceitful and knowingly misleading." Barth called on O'Malley to apologize because he said the ad is "beneath the dignity of the office."
The ad is slick, but a quick scrub shows that Ehrlich is not a registered federal or state lobbyist. He's worked for three years at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, and he told the Sun's Julie Bykowicz that his job description does not include meeting with elected officials to push legislation.
As to the claim that Ehrlich represented ExxonMobile and CitGo, Womble's Baltimore Managing Partner, David Hamilton, says the former governor had no hand in either account. In fact, neither client is served out of the firm's Baltimore office, Hamilton said.
Court records show the firm did represent Center Point Terminal Baltimore LLC and the Petroleum Fuel & Terminal Company which O'Malley's campaign alledges was responsible for a 80,000 gallon heating oil spill in South Baltimore in 2007. Hamilton said Ehrlich was not involved with the case.
The congressional votes O'Malley uses to stain Ehrlich as an industry flunky were actually supported by members on both sides of the aisle and were not flagged as problematic by pro-environmental groups.
Ehrlich did vote to allow additional exploration in the Gulf, his vote allowed far less exploration than the Bush administration and the oil companies wanted. He also voted to reduce small businesses' liability for cleaning up spill - a measure that attracted broad support in Congress.
Ehrlich uttered "Drill, Baby, Drill" on his WBAL radio show, a review of the transcript shows that he was quoting GOP Chairman Michael Steele during a discussion about the media splash the phrase made at the Republican National Convention.
(As an aside we attended a recent GOP fundraiser hoping to ask Chairman Michael Steele if he would amend his Drill, Baby, Drill refrain given the gusher in the gulf. His handlers told us Steele wasn't taking questions and hung around to be sure we followed the rules.)