Maryland's O'Malley Affair
Free Republic is a longtime hangout for me and sometimes things get pretty interesting. The current big story has all the complexity and treachery of a Russian novel.
In October of 2004, a Freeper who goes by the handle of MD4BUSH began making posts on Free Republic urging Republicans to “play dirty” in the 2004 election. MD4BUSH represented himself as a staunch Republican. He lured another poster named NCPAC into his confidence and then posted alleged private “freep-mails” between the two. MD4BUSH baited NCPAC into privately discussing sexual rumors about Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley. When MD4BUSH brought the exchanges to the attention of the Washington Post, NCPAC was fired from his government job in Maryland.
As National Review points out, however, MD4BUSH had to strongly encourage NCPAC into making any disparaging statements against O’Malley.
Most irksome is the Post’s repetition of the charge that Ehrlich appointee Joseph Steffen had been “spreading rumors about Mayor Martin O’Malley’s personal life” until Steffen was forced to resign when the Post ran a series of stories about him. As I reported earlier this month, Steffen was almost certainly the victim of a set-up. In a series of private e-mails through a conservative discussion forum, he was asked again and again by someone using the screen name MD4Bush to comment on the rumors about O’Malley, a potential candidate for governor in 2006. Steffen was reluctant, and at one point actually wrote, “I cannot and will not offer suggestions that may be considered unethical concerning what you should do, campaign-wise. This is especially true concerning [Mayor O’Malley’s] personal life.” Eventually he did comment on the things that MD4Bush was writing. These e-mails were immediately turned over to the Post, which took Steffen’s comments out of context and has used them ever since to insinuate that Ehrlich was running a smear campaign.
Baltimore Mayor O’Malley blamed Republicans for spreading the rumor. The mayor said that “widespread and persistent rumors were part of a ‘concerted and orchestrated and sustained’ effort and called on the Republican governor to apologize to his wife and children.”
Within minutes of the last private exchange between MD4BUSH and NCPAC, the Washington Post released an article that named NCPAC as Joseph Steffen, who at the time served as an aide to Maryland’s governor Robert Ehrlich, Jr. Several on Free Republic have noted that the timing appeared suspicious and that it was likely that the Washington Post used MD4BUSH as their source and that they considered him reliable.
MD4BUSH Identified as Democrat Party Operative
WBAL News is now reporting that Governor Ehrlich’s Chief Counsel has released a letter to the governor that points to former Maryland State Democratic official Ryan O’Doherty as the man behind the identity of MD4BUSH. WBAL has posted a text from an e-mail that O’Doherty sent to Democrat supporters a few hours before the Washington Post published its story. O’Doherty claimed in a January 23rd Washington Post article to be working for the Maryland Democratic Party. He now claims, however, not to have been employed by the Democratic Party on February 8th, the time that the e-mail was sent. Following is an excerpt from the e-mail:
“There will be a big story in the Post either tomorrow or Thursday that credits Governor Ehrlich’s staff for creating and spreading the nasty and untrue rumor about our Mayor and his family. Steve asked me to contact you to see if you could show your disgust by calling into WBAL Radio after the story hits. The guys on WBAL obviously could try to protect Ehrlich, so we need as many folks as possible to call 410-467-WBAL. I will e-mail the story to you as soon as it hits and read it carefully and then call in and raise hell. Don’t call in until after the story is published in the Washington Post - It is top secret!”
The Washington Post Protects its Democrat Source
The Washington Post claims today that it did not know the identity of MD4BUSH but that Post Reporter Matthew Mosk was provided copies of the message exchanges between MD4BUSH and NCPAC last fall. Mosk claims that an “intermediary acting on behalf of MD4BUSH” gave him sign-on information to vie the private e-mails. Mosk claims that he corroborated the story by showing the e-mails to Steffen in order to gain confirmation.
Did the Washington Post really not know the identity of MD4BUSH? If they knew who he was, then why would they not have identified him as a Democrat operative? And if they did not know his identity, why would they have printed the story in the first place. How could the Post have verified a source when it claims to not know the source’s identity?
In either case, this story is a poster child for not having “shield laws” for journalists. Mainstream journalists tend to run amok and lose all accountability — especially when it comes to subtly twisting a story to support pet left-wing causes.
The story suggests that the Washington Post could or should have known all along that this was a setup by the Democrats to blame a dirty trick on the Republicans.
A Possible Motive for O’Doherty
Ryan O’Doherty has ties with a man named Douglas Duncan through a group called Citizens for Quality Living — a group representing real estate developers. Both men were members of the group. Duncan is a fellow Democrat but is a political foe of Baltimore Mayor O’Malley.
Damian O’Doherty — Ryan O’Doherty’s brother — was also President of Citizens for Quality Living in 2002, which was investigated by the Maryland Prosecutor’s office as to whether it was a PAC under Maryland Law. The group was accused of running cable television ads and sending out political mailings during the Montgomery council primary without registering or filing financial statements. A panel of 3 Circuit Court judges decided that Citizens for Quality Living was not a PAC.
Things we Need to Know
It appears that Ryan O’Doherty sought to smear Democrat Mayor O’Malley on behalf of his Democrat friend Douglas Duncan and then to blame the dirty trick on the Republicans. Heads should roll.
- Was Ryan O’Doherty on the payroll of a Democrat organization at the time of the Washington Post story?
- Did Douglas Duncan have any knowledge of Ryan O’Doherty’s actions to smear Mayor O’Malley?
- Did the Washington Post have any knowledge of the identity of MD4BUSH (Ryan O’Doherty)?
- If question 3 can be answered in the affirmative, did the Washington Post knowingly conceal the identity of MD4BUSH and allow Republicans to be blamed for the dirty trick?
I would feel a lot better if we could depend on the mainstream media to properly cover this story.