Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Haven't I Seen This Before?

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “This is déjà vu all over again.”

Today Annie Linskey reported in the Baltimore Sun that former governor (and my ex-boss) Bob Ehrlich has landed at the Washington, D.C. office of an international law firm, King and Spalding, where he will serve as “Special Counsel.”

It made me think back to almost exactly four years ago, when Ehrlich announced he had been hired by North Carolina firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice.

I felt Ehrlich was a good hire then, and I think he’s a good hire now.

As a former governor he brings a certain degree of cache to the firm. What’s more, as a former GOP congressman, he has a lot of friends with gavels on the Republican side of Capitol Hill. These connections will certainly be useful to his new employer and clients.

The next portion of Ms. Linskey’s story presented me with the darker side of déjà vu.  

“Long-time Ehrlich aide Greg Massoni will also work for the firm,” she writes. “He will be in the communications shop. Ehrlich said there could be additional announcements about other aides shortly.”

Given the challenges posed by the current economy, I'm not completely unsympathetic to the plight of a fiftysomething father of four without a college degree trying to find steady work.

Still, I’m genuinely curious as to what responsibilities the folks at King and Spalding will bestow upon Massoni, a man my friend Joe Steffen famously once called the “highest paid umbrella holder in the history of Maryland State Government.”

An experienced  TV producer, Massoni had no background in strategic public relations before joining the Ehrlich Administration. According to his biography at the Womble Carlyle website, his sole listed responsibility there was serving as a “co-author” of the firm’s strategic communications blog, “Wag the Dog.” But a review of all blog entries dating back to June 2008 reveals that none contained his byline.

Hopefully the new firm will allow him to develop his talents beyond his historic role as Ehrlich’s Sancho Panza. Otherwise, we all know how much law firms like paying big bucks to non-lawyers who stand around doing nothing.
Four years ago, some of my friends – fellow expatriates of Ehrlich world – found it puzzling that the partners of a Democratically-leaning North Carolina firm would allow Ehrlich to bring so many well-paid non-lawyers like the redoubtable Massoni with him. So, it surprises me that another firm might be allowing them to do the same thing again.

After all, the crisis communications venture they tried to launch at Womble crumbled. And, the campaign they abandoned it for ended in humiliation and scandal.

But that’s not what disappoints me about this déjà vu situation. What disappoints me is how some of my former colleagues are stubbornly refusing to leave the Ehrlich all you can grab buffet.

Some would seemingly prefer to continue leveraging Ehrlich’s considerable generosity and largesse for their own personal enrichment, rather than stand on their own professional feet - or feats.

Every political job is temporary. Win or lose, it always comes to an end. And when it does, more often than not, you resume the career you had before the political odyssey began.

That’s what I had to do. That’s what almost everyone else in Ehrlich world did when the administration ended in 2007.

But we did it. We stuck our resumes out there and competed for jobs like everyone else. And when we succeeded, it was because of our own efforts and credentials and not because we left it to someone else to take care of us yet again.

Mike Deaver didn’t take a position in Ronald Reagan's post-presidential office in Century City. James Baker didn’t trail George H. W. Bush back to Kennebunkport. And James Carville isn't sitting down the hall from Bill Clinton up in Harlem.

When the ride is over, it’s over. Clinging to the gravy train, especially after it has derailed, lacks nobility, dignity, and class.

Ehrlich was a very positive force in my professional life, and I am grateful for the experiences I acquired by working with him. But it’s time for all of us who worked for him to stand on who we are, not who we were.

Just because your host is too polite to tell you the party is over does not mean you shouldn’t go home anyway.

The ride is over, gentlemen. And, by all accounts, it was a pretty good one.

Leave the man be.


  1. Silly Richard, It is a Republican characteristic to stand on your own two feet. Republicans preach independence, "teach a man to Fish...", get rid of the bureaucrats bogging down free market. You forgot that the majority of Ehrlich staff hanger oners are Democrats. The professionals of getting in a appointed job and staying there for 40 years.

  2. Fatal flaws or blind spots begin with the urgency of personal peccadilloes, and if rewarded often enough, continue throughout one's life.

    It has become obvious to the average rank and file supporter that the emperor was fatally flawed if judging by the company kept. The disappointment is not just in poorly executed political campaigns, but in the insistence on perpetuating the folly.

  3. I think the Guv chooses to keep as many of the pups he can from that litter. They all happily wag their tails and fetch and he retains his Top Dog status.

    The black Suburban SUV should have a "Caution: Show Dogs" bumper sticker on it.

  4. So sad that RLE has to continue being driven around in a Black Suburban. This goes back to his denial that he is no longer governor. When he lost the first time, I think Massoni told him that Government House was simply being renovated for 4 four years. The "Ehrlichs'" would be able to move back in after renovations. He was in denial for 4 years. I wonder if he is still in denial?

    Unfortuantely for him, the Henson incident will have forever tarnished his already dubious legacy. I know people who served in his Administration who are now embarassed to be associated with him. Between his arrogance, sense of entitlement, and the dirty race-based politics -- RLE is now dead to many formerly loyal folks.

    By the way the "dead to me" language comes right out of Bob's handbook. He is very quick to consider someone as dead to him if they so much as hint at disagreement. An example of this is when Jim Harkins refused to resign form his Ehrlich-appointed position at MES. Harkins quickly assumed the status of a corpse. That charasterisc of Bob is one of the reasons why Massoni has been so unquestioningly loyal and submissive. To do otherwise would have put him in the same boat as Steve Kreseski. The other reason is that Massoni is completely incapable of finding meaningful employment on his own. Very sad.

    Schurick at least has been able to parlay his BS skills (noted with a bit of begrudging admiration) into jobs with various politicians.

  5. Agree with the previous commenter. Schurick does deliver some value. By contrast, Massoni is a dunce. He's been a laughingstock in state political circles for years, but is too dumb to realize it. Delivers no professional value whatsoever outside of a local TV environment. No one else but Ehrlich will hire him.

  6. Here is an example of Greg Massoni's value-addedness in action (Laura Vozzella's column, 11/4/07).

    The well would have gone dry anyhow

    Del. John Olszewski Jr. held a meeting the other night to talk about the special session. One Dundalkian who got up to speak his mind: Greg Massoni, once-and-current communications guy for former Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

    "He said something like, `How come Ehrlich left us with a $1 billion surplus and O'Malley blew it all in one year?'" Olszewski recalled.

    The delegate was ready. Before Massoni arrived, he'd played old audio of Ehrlich budget secretary Cecilia Januszkiewicz describing how the Ehrlich administration was counting on using most of the surplus in fiscal '08. So Olszewski replayed the tape.

    "I've never seen him speechless before," Olszewski said. (State Dems continued to emphasize this tape yesterday in Annapolis).

    I couldn't reach Massoni for comment, but I got Januszkiewicz on the phone. She acknowledged that Ehrlich had reserved about $800 million of the surplus for '08 operations. But, she added, "It's not necessarily the case that we would have used all of that money."

  7. And Massoni's rebuttal (Vozzella, 11/7/07):

    "The debate over whether Bob Ehrlich left Maryland in great financial shape or on the road to financial ruin rages on. The latest salvo comes from Ehrlich communications guy Greg Massoni, who called to take issue with Del. John Olszewski Jr.'s account of their exchange at a recent town meeting. 'He was the speechless one,' said Massoni, who stands by his assertion that Ehrlich 'left over $1 billion surplus'. O'Malley spent that surplus in the first six months.' The Democrats say Ehrlich's own budget projections show he would have blown it, too."

    Whether or not he was originally speechless, it is clear that he should have stayed that way.

  8. Cross:

    Massoni was fired from Womble Carlyle in March 2010. That's why he left the firm months ahead of the others. He wasn't producing anything that affected the firm's bottom line.

    Rumor also has it that Massoni was shopping his resume around to DC-based TV stations - including the one where he used to work - and the only bite he had was one part-time producer's gig. MASN told him to take a hike, too.

    No one wants him outside of Ehrlich's shrinking sphere of influence.

  9. What happened to Bob and Womble? Was that ever publicized? Did he quit or get canned?

  10. Anon @ 3/30 @ 18:28:

    I heard that Ehrlich was invited back to Womble, but in a different capacity than before. With the new GOP Congress in session, they wanted him in DC for lobbying activities. For the others who left to join the campaign, they were not invited back, so returning to Womble was not an option.

    As for the legal side of the Baltimore office, it continues under the able leadership of David Hamilton - a lawyer's lawyer, reputation-wise. I was told that the lease at the Baltimore office expires in August. It will be interesting to see what happens then.


  11. Are we still fighting the surplus v deficit battle? DLS has the charts sitting in their fiscal analysis reports. Just because Massoni didn't know it doesn't mean he was wrong.

    As for his job, good for him. I don't begrudge anyone's success or health unless they give me good reason. It sounds like you have an axe to grind with Monsieur Massoni.

  12. Anon @ 4/01/11 @17:11

    I'm not sure Massoni can be considered a "success," at least career wise.

    Following the same boss who's already given you three jobs in ten years (not to mention the jobs given to your wife and son) to a fourth one at a law firm when you're not even a lawyer smacks of charity, not success.

    I saw a tick that was the size of a large marble once. It had engorged itself on a neighborhood dog. Was that tick an example of career "success" as well?