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Jealous releases ethics plan pledging not to meet with felon lobbyists, calls his own contact an 'error'

Democratic candidate for governor Ben Jealous released a plan Wednesday for ethics reform in state government in which he pledged to refuse all meetings with lobbyists convicted of fraud or corruption crimes.

Jealous named powerful lobbyists Bruce Bereano and Gerard Evans, who were convicted of fraud but have since returned to multi-million-dollar lobbying gigs in the state capital.

But Jealous didn’t mention that he had contacted Evans for support of his campaign, according to a voicemail message the lobbyist circulated Wednesday to reporters. It was recorded three weeks ago.

“Gerry, hey, it’s Ben Jealous calling,” Jealous says, before saying he “could really use your support.”

At a news conference in Baltimore, Jealous described reaching out to Evans as an “error.”

“If any check had ever come in from him, we would have returned it,” Jealous said.

The Democrat said he believed Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and his insurance commissioner, Al Redmer, have behaved unethically while in office.

Jealous, who has divested from his investments at the venture capital firm Kapor Capital, said he would work to pass legislation to require future governors with business interests to use a blind trust — something he has criticized Hogan for not doing with his real estate holdings.

Hogan has entered into a trust managed by three of his former top aides, although it is not a blind trust. That’s one in which a public official puts assets under the control of an independent trustee, with the official not allowed to know how the trustee is managing the assets.

Hogan’s trust agreement was designed and approved by the State Ethics Commission.

Hogan released tax returns that show he’s made about $2.4 million in corporate earnings while governor.

“Larry Hogan should have put all his assets in a blind trust,” Jealous said. “I believe that is not ethical.”

Scott Sloofman, a spokesman for Hogan’s campaign, said Jealous’ actions in dealing with Evans undercut his message.

“As this newly uncovered voicemail shows, Ben Jealous has been repeatedly violating his own ethics proposal, and it proves he cannot be trusted to run an ethical administration,” Sloofman said.

Evans was convicted in 2000 of mail fraud.

Hogan is seeking a second term in the Nov. 6 election. Early voting begins Oct. 25.

Jealous also said he would pursue legislation to require future statewide and presidential candidates to release their tax returns and promised to dismiss any cabinet secretary who sought elected office, a slap at Redmer, who is running for Baltimore County executive.

Democrats also have accused Redmer of accepting campaign donations from insurance-related sources.

Redmer has pledged not to accept donations from the industry that he regulates. He argues that Democrats are counting against him donations from individuals not regulated directly by the Maryland Insurance Administration.

Hannah Marr, a spokeswoman for Redmer, said Jealous’ accusations were without merit.

She also said the Democratic Baltimore County executive candidate, Johnny Olszewski, and Jealous must be sharing talking points.

"Al Redmer has made it explicitly clear that he has not and will not accept contributions from individuals or businesses regulated by the Maryland Insurance Administration, and has actually forgone tens of thousands of dollars in potential contributions from this self-imposed rule,” she said. "Johnny O and Ben Jealous know they are losing big in Baltimore County and are so desperate they are willing to say anything, and even blatantly lie, to distract voters from their failing campaigns."

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