Emails illuminate guv's relationship with top Shore employer

A series of emails between Gov. Martin O'Malley  and Purdue Industry's top lawyer have drawn criticism from an environmental group for showing undue "coziness" between the two. O'Malley's office denies that conclusion -- but the exchanges do provide political-types a peek into how the state's governor manages key relationships (and some insight as to what exactly he's doing with his Blackberry all the time.)

The emails, obtained by public interest organization Food and Water Watch, cover three main topics: O'Malley's attempts to bring Perdue on board with a legislative priority; the governor smoothing ruffled feelings from the poultry giant after a news story the company didn't like; and requests by the lawyer the company for help securing federal funds for a project he supports.

They show a version of O'Malley's personality not frequently on display to the public: Unscripted, informal and a bit sarcastic. The exchanges are mostly between O'Malley and Herb Frerichs, a classmate from law school who is now Perdue's corporate attorney. The emails span from July 2010 to November 2011.

In one, O'Malley thanks Frerichs for a presumably social event: "It was a lot of fun," O'Malley writes. "A welcome relief from Annapolis and all those old songs."

The emails also show him extremely attentive to policy details, legislative machinations in Annapolis and concerns brought by Perdue, the Shore's largest employer. The governor asks detailed questions about a grant Frerichs wants to support historic ships - though says he's making "no promises." He discusses various lawmakers by name and references meetings with them and their staffs. It's a portrait different from that drawn by critics who last year started saying he was busy running for president and neglecting state duties.

The exchanges also show that politics can be, at times, down right catty. In this exchange, O'Malley tries to determine whether Perdue is trashing him behind his back.

The governor wrote to Frerichs: "Buddy (Md's ag Secretary) says he spoke with you and you said that it was I that was inattentive and unappreciative of Perdue. In your email to me you said it was the Secretary of Agriculture who was falling down and not preforming compared to others. Which is it, or is your perception that neither of [us] is properly attentive, present, appreciative or responsive?"

Herb Frerichs wrote back 30 minutes later saying: "That is not what I said."

O'Malley replied: "Weird."

The emails delve further into Perdue's dim view of Maryland Agriculture Secretary Earl F. "Buddy" Hance. Frerichs writes that Hance is "not as strong as his counterparts in DE or VA."

O'Malley fires back: "I'm guessing you don't have the personal emails of the governors of DE or VA, so let me know when Buddy can/should be doing more."

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