Democrats promote Ehrlich connection to Abramoff

A documentary about Jack Abramoff being released today already has a cult following: Maryland Democrats.

The party of Gov. Martin O'Malley is promoting the movie, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, because rival candidate Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. pops up in it. Ehrlich is in a smiling snapshot with the disgraced lobbyist, who is now serving four years in federal prison.

The Democrats say Ehrlich's connection to Abramoff "runs deep," pointing to a Hanukkah party Abramoff attended at the Governor's mansion and a $16,000 donation that Ehrlich accepted from Abramoff, though he returned it. They also have a mutual friend, Edward B. Miller.

Before joining the Ehrlich administration in August 2003, Miller started and then sold the firm Grassroots Interactive, which critics have said was used to launder millions of dollars for Abramoff. The firm came up in the Abramoff investigation, but Miller was not criminally charged.

Miller was Ehrlich's deputy chief of staff during the latter part of the administration. And when Ehrlich was defeated in 2006 and launched the Baltimore law office of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, Miller came along, though he has since left.

"Casino Jack and Lobbyist Bob, the cell-blockbuster of the year," Maryland Democratic Party Executive Director Travis Tazelaar gloated in a press release Thursday.

Asked about the Abramoff movie after a campaign event this morning in Baltimore, Ehrlich burst into laughter. "It's too goofy," Ehrlich said of the Democrats promotion of the film. "When you are unable to sell or market your candidate, you start this stuff early."

But what about his ties to Abramoff? There are none, Ehrlich said, still laughing, "or they would have found it last time."

The documentary is directed by Alex Gibey, who won acclaim for his film about the escapades and collapse of Enron.

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