Mama, who was that masked man?

The Baltimore Sun

Maybe Maryland Dems should put MD4BUSH back to work. The state party seems to have lost the art of political cyber-sleuthing.

Last week, the party sent out a long news release that opened with this claim: "Evidence is mounting that former Governor Bob Ehrlich and his new North Carolina law firm's Maryland-based staff are the driving forces behind a totally anonymous and controversial smear website."

Later in the release, the party referred to "the confirmed connection" between Team Ehrlich at Womble Carlyle and the site,

What's the proof?

The party attached an e-mail that Ehrlich's once-and-current spokesman, Henry Fawell, sent during work hours to a reporter. It outlines "a very odd land deal" that the O'Malley administration had proposed, involving 74 acres of industrially zoned land in Queen Anne's County. "Hours later, the same details and identical criticisms were posted on," the release said.

Sorry, but all that proves is that Fawell isn't the only one who thinks the deal is fishy. By that reasoning, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp could be omalleywatch, too.

Martin Watcher - the pseudonymous force behind the site - posted a joking response that Fawell and omalleywatch had the same tipster: Ehrlich. "Who else would have both Fawell's and's email address?"

In an e-mail, Martin Watcher would only reveal this much about his identity: "i am not Henry Fawell."

Fawell's e-mail - sent before 5 p.m. on a Tuesday - suggests that he spent at least part of one Womble workday on O'Malley opposition research. Fawell told me a "whistleblower in government" dug up all the info, and he just passed it along to a reporter.

He acknowledged that he was on the Womble clock but noted that he used a private gmail account. (Hey, Martin Watcher used gmail, too. Now there's proof!)

Fawell also said his workday at the firm is not consumed with plotting an Ehrlich comeback. (Even if it were, I guess that would be between Fawell and the bosses back in North Carolina, though it would raise the question: What the heck is Womble getting out of it besides, perhaps, a future friend in Annapolis?)

"I am too busy enjoying the private sector," Fawell said. "As hard as it may be for folks in Annapolis to believe, we are too busy with our work at Womble Carlyle to cause them headaches."

Of the GOP, by the GOP, for the GOP

A video on a new Web site called mdforfred purports to show the average "man on the street" in Bel Air singing the praises of presidential hopeful Fred Thompson, The Sun's Justin Fenton reports.

Turns out almost all of the interviewees are Republican activists who, come to think of it, really are the average men on the street in Bel Air.

One is Mike Geppi, chairman of the Harford County Republican Central Committee. Another is Scott Gibson, the county director of human resources, who was appointed to the $100,000-a-year position at the age of 24, after working hard on County Executive David Craig's campaign last fall. The only one whose GOP credentials are made clear is state Sen. J. Robert Hooper.

Connect the dots

With the new Hairspray about to open Friday, The New York Times did a story the other day about John Travolta, who plays Edna Turnblad. It mentions that the editor of The Washington Blade, Kevin Naff, has called for a boycott of the movie for two seemingly inconsistent reasons: because Travolta is a member of the Church of Scientology, which Naff characterized as anti-gay; and because of rumors that Travolta himself is gay but in the closet. Who comes to Travolta's defense? John Waters, who made the original Hairspray and is an executive producer of the new one. "If he were homophobic, he'd have had a heart attack on the set," Waters told The Times. Waters added: "He's in a dress singing a love song to his husband, so what's anyone complaining about?" ... Another one of those Best Places to Live lists is out, this one from Money magazine, which puts five Maryland towns in its top 100. Olney ranks 17th, Elkridge 42nd, Catonsville 49th, Eldersburg 56th and Crofton 72nd. ... David Carey, a Bel Air town commissioner and former mayor, has outed himself: He's the guy who escorted Gov. Martin O'Malley into a Fourth of July party thrown by a Republican Central Committee member - a move that ruffled a few GOP feathers. "I was the guy who brought Gov. O'Malley to Wayne Norman's party," Carey said. "If you look at the photos on the Guv's website, that's me riding in the parade with the Guv, and I am in a few photos with him at the party, including one with Terry Hanley." ... That's Mayor Terry O. Hanley. Or should it be Terry O'Hanley? Hanley said Harford County remains "Ehrlich Country," but he praised O'Malley for making an appearance. "Kinda gutsy," he called it. ... Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt; sometimes not. A Sun poll indicates that mayoral hopeful Jill Carter has stronger support in East Baltimore (5 percent) than in the city's northwest district (2 percent), which she represents as a state delegate. (The difference is within the margin of error, so take that with a grain of salt.) Meanwhile, City Councilman Ken Harris, who's aspiring to be council president, does better in his northeast district (15 percent) than citywide (8 percent).

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