Politics comes out of the closet

The Baltimore Sun

There's a nasty pink political flier floating around Maryland's 1st Congressional District, and don't blame prepster-candidate Robert Banks. The gist of the piece - purportedly paid for by Progressive Marylanders for Social Justice - is that incumbent Wayne Gilchrest has been a friend to gays.

"That took courage, conviction and ... family Loyalty," the flier says. "Wayne's Brother David married his 16-year partner at a service on the beach in Massachusetts."

For the record, Gilchrest does have a gay brother who married his partner in Massachusetts. But Progressive Marylanders for Social Justice, the group credited on the authority line, is a fictitious organization. The Gilchrest campaign says the flier is a dirty trick courtesy of one of his Republican challengers, state Sen. Andy Harris.

Equality Maryland, a real gay-rights group, accused Harris of a similar trickery in November 2006, when he beat back Democratic challenger Pat Foerster. Constituents in the conservative district received middle-of-the-night robo calls from the nonexistent "Gay and Lesbian Push," urging them to support Foerster. Equality Maryland complained at the time.

"Unfortunately, this is not surprising," said Gilchrest chief of staff Tony Caligiuri. "But it's so below the dignity of anybody who wants to be a member of Congress that it's just really sad."

Harris campaign manager Chris Meekins said he knew nothing about the flier or any robo calls from the 2006 race, which he did not manage.

"We've run a very open and honest campaign," he added. "Andy's always been willing to put his name front and center. ... I would not be surprised if the Gilchrest campaign made this up to try to smear a sitting state senator."

In fact, Meekins suggested his opposition research had come up short - at least in the realm of gay relatives marrying in Massachusetts (on the beach, no less).

"His brother is married? I didn't even know that."

A customer who knows the clientele

A few days before his Chicago court date on child porn charges, R&B; artist R. Kelly spent time - where else? - in a clothing store popular with teenage girls.

Kelly strolled through Forever 21 at The Mall in Columbia last weekend, wearing a white tracksuit, white 'do rag and sunglasses. He was trailed by a large entourage and cell-camera-snapping fans.

"He was very diva-like" - posing for pictures but never cracking a smile - reports my teenage spy. She was a little creeped out that a guy charged with videotaping sex with an underage girl was in a shop catering to just that demographic - with his personal videographer recording the moment, no less.

You knew that he would milk this one

Coming soon in the mail to nearly all of Maryland's 188 state senators and delegates: a black-and-white photo of a 2-ish towheaded boy wearing a swimsuit and a smile.

"How can you say no to this person?" reads the text underneath. "Have a good Legislative Session. Bruce C. Bereano."

The lobbyist says the mailing - to every lawmaker "except the ones who really, really don't like me" - is "just a fun thing."

Bereano also tells me he's added to his stable of clients, this time right from the stable.

"A nice city boy from the Bronx, New York - born and raised - got hired by a whole group of dairy farmers in the state of Maryland to deal with some very serious problems with milk pricing. ... They couldn't think of any udder lobbyist."

Hey, Clarence Darrow, I'm a little short

Talk about a good lawyer. Not only did Rockville attorney Barry H. Helfand get his client a mere 6 months unsupervised probation on a charge of bringing a loaded 9 mm to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, but he paid the guy's fine and court costs, too.

Immediately after the sentencing hearing in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court last week, Helfand and his client went to the lower level of the courthouse to pony up the $250 fine plus court costs, totaling $395. The convicted gun toter apparently didn't have enough dough (although a $50 bill was peeking from his wallet), so Helfand began slapping Benjamins on the counter, The Sun's Nicole Fuller reports.

He explained the next day by phone: "I went to Caesar's Palace, and I broke the bank."

Connect the dots

A labor group, Coalition of Labor Union Women, plans to demonstrate against "toxic imports" at congressional district offices today. "Blatantly political," Brian Schubert, spokesman for the U.S. House Republican Conference, said in an e-mail to fellow GOP staffers. He was upset because on its Web site, the group listed the offices that would be targeted and labeled the events along party lines: "protests" at Republican offices, "friendly" visits to Dems. The group apparently wasn't sure what to make of Representative Gilchrest. Next to his name, it said, "Protest?" ... In her bid to unseat Rep. Albert Wynn, Donna Edwards deployed what she hopes is a lethal weapon: Danny Glover. The actor helped her greet the evening rush-hour crowd Monday at the New Carrollton Metro station. ... From reader Mike DeBow: "Read w/ great interest Sen. [Jim] Brochin's perceptive review of Hannah Montana. I did not like his diss of Bruce Springsteen. However, it confirms what I have always known. There's a Darkness on the Edge of Towson."

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