Well, it looks like the "Rudolph's Robocall Christmas Special" I blogged about before is just getting started.
Today investigators from the State Prosecutor's Office showed up at Ehrlich political advisor Julius Henson's house. These guys came bearing subpoenas instead of presents. WBAL TV reported that the investigators departed with boxes of materials. At one point, Henson can be observed peering out the window, then pulling down the shade. Given Team Ehrlich's refusal to discuss the robocall scandal, Henson's little moment seems especially poignant.
For those of you who haven't been following this, it seems that there are three lumps of coal in Henson's Christmas stocking.
The first is a civil filing in federal court by State Attorney General Doug Gansler arguing that the robocalls, which failed to include an authority line, violated federal law. With 112,000 calls allegedly made, and fines amounting to $500 a pop, Henson may be facing $56 million in fines. I know Team Ehrlich paid him well, but he wasn't making that much.
The second one is the letter which Senator Ben Cardin sent to U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate whether the calls amounted to an illegal attempt to suppress turnout among Democrats. I have heard from those in the know that the feds have in fact been sniffing around, but it hasn't gotten any public attention yet.
The third lump of coal is a state law prohibiting any attempt to "influence or attempt to influence a voter's decision whether to go to the polls to cast a vote through the use of fraud." This state law is presumably the impetus for today's raid by state investigators.
Some regard the calls as a foolhardy, "What were they thinking" enterprise. Others see them as an shameful attempt to trick people out of their right to vote. I see them as both.
You don't need to be a lawyer to know that Henson is in a whole heap of trouble. I can't imagine that anyone who is part of Maryland's political landscape will ever hire him again, for anything.
For me, two intriguing questions remain.
First, will anyone else in Ehrlich World get pulled into this reputation-crunching maelstrom?
Henson was paid over $100,000 by Ehrlich for "community outreach" activities, including $14,000 in the days just before the robocall went into the field. Were these monies paid out specifically for the robocalls? No doubt investigators will minimally want to talk to Campaign Manager Paul Schurick and Political Director Bernie Marczyk - the "Big Enos" and "Little Enos" of Team Ehrlich - to establish if Henson coordinated his activities with anyone else associated with the Ehrlich campaign.
Second, will Ehrlich ever break his silence regarding this matter?
Knowing the man and his management style, I am confident that the former governor knew nothing about the robocall before it happened. I can also understand that, as a lawyer, he does not want to comment on a topic that is the subject of federal and state investigations.
What I don't get, however, is why he therefore keeps showing up at the same TV/radio studio, where he is certain to get the question every time he enters the building.
For the sake of his legacy and his reputation, Governor Ehrlich will have to address the robocall matter eventually. In the meantime, if I were him, I'd stop visiting WBAL or any other media outlet for a while. It interjects an element of discomfort and awkwardness into a situation that already has ample quantities of both.