Formal ethics complaint filed against Garagiola

Corrected: This item was updated to reflect that that the state disclosure form does not require an officeholder to disclose the amount of income received from outside employment.   

A former Bush administration official with political ties in Maryland has filed a formal ethics complaint against Democratic state Sen. Rob Garagiola for failing to disclose income he received as a lobbyist on state disclosure forms.

Garagiola has come under fire from Democratic opponent John Delaney in the 6th Congressional District primary race for failing to disclose the income he received from 2001-2003 while working at Washington firm Greenberg Traurig. Delaney's camaign, which says it amounts to several hundred thousand dollars in income, is running television and radio ads noting the omission.

"Maryland voters have the right to know about Sen. Garagiola's work as a lobbyist and his employment with Greenberg Traurig and Stein Sperling," reads the complaint, which was received Monday by the Department of Legislative Services. "We were denied that right for five years."

The filing was made by Potomac attorney Randa Fahmy Hudome, a former associate deputy secretary of energy who was appointed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to the Maryland Commission for Women. Hudome said in an interview that she is not affiliated with any of the campaigns and learned about the issue from one of Delaney's radio ads.

Sean Rankin, campaign manager for Garagiola, said the filing is an indication that Republicans are looking at Garagiola as the likley Democratic nominee. The district is currently held by Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a 10-term Republican who is seeking another term. 

"Randa Hudome and her husband, Mike, who are certainly part of the Who's Who in Washington...Republican circles, just fired the first shot of the general election campaign, which I think confirms that Republicans and Roscoe Bartlett know that they are running against Rob Garagiola in the fall," Rankin said in a statement. The move, Rankin said, "would seem to tip the hand of Roscoe Bartlett and his polling as to our Democratic primary, but as polling and turnout are two different things, we are going to continue focusing exclusively on our field operation and turning out our ID'ed voters for early voting and Election Day next week."           

Aides said Garagiola has filed amedned disclosure reports.  

The Delaney campaign first raised the issue several weeks ago in a press release and has continued to apply pressure in a series of ads. The Garagiola campaign initially argued that the wording of the state disclosure form was unclear.

Greenberg Traurig has particularly powerful political overtones because it is the firm where disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff worked. Garagiola's campaign has noted that Abramoff is a Republican and said that he did not share clients with Garagiola.

It's also not clear Garagiola was intentionally hiding his work as a lobbyist. His work was disclosed at the time on forms filed with the U.S. House and Senate that are available online, as required by law. He also listed the firm as his employer in a voter's guide that appeared in The Washington Post when he ran for the General Assembly in 2002.

The complaint will be considered at the next meeting of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics in Annapolis, which has not yet been scheduled. 


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