Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What's Next For Schurick?

When I learned of Paul Schurick’s conviction on all four counts related to the robocall scandal yesterday afternoon, two questions popped into my mind.

First, how will this affect Bob Ehrlich’s book sales?

Secondly, I wondered if the jury may have rendered a “counterintuitive verdict.” In other words, by convicting Schurick, was the jury really trying to speak to his innocence?

Seriously, I was surprised by Schurick’s across the board convictions. I gave up trying to handicap jury verdicts a long time ago. Most of the lawyers and media observers I spoke with told me they thought that Schurick would be acquitted or, in a worst case scenario, convicted on one of the more minor charges.

Clearly the jury just didn’t buy the “counterintuitive” argument which was at the heart of the defense’s case. Indeed, it was kind of hard to get past Bernie Marczyk’s astonishing email to Schurick, which confirmed that Henson’s goal was voter suppression, not increased turnout. 

Further, I don’t think Schurick’s decision to testify helped him very much. Neither did the parade of politicos who spoke on Schurick’s behalf.

I know Schurick has a lot of friends due to his three decades in Maryland political circles. But if I had been on that jury, I would have resented the fact that members of Maryland’s political class were trying to compel me to brush past the evidence and simply take their collective word, instead.

So, what does Schurick do now? Clearly a long and costly appellate process awaits him, not to mention possible incarceration if his appeals fail.

In the meantime, I think he needs to start apologizing.

First, he needs to apologize to the voters who got that offensive, ill-conceived call.

Next he should apologize to the state GOP. How ironic that the misdeeds of Democrats Schurick and Henson will now create further image problems for the state’s already beleaguered minority party, even though its partisans had no role in the decision-making chain.

Then, he should apologize to his fellow campaign aides, some of whom had to deal with depositions, lawyers, and court testimony as a result of Schurick’s misadventure.

Lastly, he should apologize to Bob Ehrlich, whose legacy has been tainted by this incident.

When Schurick’s friends spoke to the jury, they portrayed him as a model of truth, forbearance, and integrity – Maryland’s own Honest Abe.  When I first read that, I nearly lost a mouthful of Diet Pepsi.

Some might say the BS whizzing around that courtroom was "thick in the air like locusts."

Anyone who knows Schurick can tell you he has always been a bit of a rascal – a quality I came to both admire and dislike about him at different times.

These are the kinds of moments in which you really see what’s in a person’s character.

One of the jurors said of Schurick: “Even good guys can do bad things.”

This is Schurick’s opportunity to set the rascal aside.

If he steps up, apologizes, and accepts the consequences of his actions, he might validate the overwhelming faith his friends demonstrated for him.

I hope he does.


  1. While pondering what words of advice I'd offer Schurick, I realized Lawrence from Office Space said it best. "Watch out for your corn-hole, man! "

  2. Sorry I'm not with you on this one, my friend.

    My quarrel has always been with Bob Ehrlich, not his staff, and I genuinely admired a few of them, but the robocall investigation revealed Chris Cavey, Henry Fawell, Bernie Marczyk, Greg Massoni, and Paul Schurick met with Julius Henson in the summer of 2010 to discuss his detailed plan to fraudulently suppress African American voters. According to the investigation, they didn't pursue his plan at that time because the campaign couldn't afford the $600,000 price tag, yet Julius Henson remained on the Ehrlich campaign payroll collecting over $100,000 in consulting fees through the general election.

    As far as we know, none of the staffers at that meeting called for Mr. Henson's dismissal or resigned. Certainly that doesn't bring their culpability to Mr. Schurick's level, but they each condoned working with a known dirty trickster who proposed an explicit voter suppression scheme. Bernie Marczyk went a step closer to Mr. Schurick's level. If any of them were subsequently inconvenienced by legal fees (we'll soon know how much the Ehrlich campaign paid in legal fees to whom), investigations, court appearances, or public humiliation, that's just reward for the poor choices they made.

    Bob Ehrlich's culpability rises to a higher level. Throughout his career, he assented to dirty campaign tricks that others (read: Martin O'Malley) would immediately fire aides or consultants for merely suggesting.

    Bob Ehrlich's 2006 Philadelphia ex-convict busing ploy wasn't illegal (although the way it was paid for might have been illegal)but it was equal parts despicable and ridiculous.

    If you give Bob Ehrlich the benefit of the doubt on personal awareness of that ploy, you have to concede it was incumbent on him the next time--in 2010--to make clear to his staff that no remotely similar endeavor would be tolerated. If that wasn't enough, my party held a press conference in September of that year to remind him. Still, he kept on his campaign payroll Maryland's best known political dirty trickster (whom Martin O'Malley would never hire for anything) and very obviously did not make clear that dirty tricks would be forbidden this time around.

    Hence, Bob Ehrlich will be remembered as your party's poster child for African American voter suppression.

    - Lebowitz

  3. Bobby won his first election for Delegate by using false endorsements and some very negative and ugly attacks on an incumbent Republican. Then came Hogan's late night hottub soirees and bobby's lifelong indebtedness to certain democrats. He steps all over Franks to win his seat in Congress and hires Shurick as his political guru. He won in 2002 by bussing in the homeless from DC ... and then abandoning them and refuses to pay them. In 2006 ... it was Philadelphia and in 2010 it was the Shurick Doctrine. At what point does the "car turn around" and dump him out!

  4. Hi Steve:

    You and I - and frankly, me and Joe Steffen - have had this disagreement before. You guys blame Ehrlich personally for this incident. I suppose I do as well, but I'd assign him a different degree of culpability.

    I have never seen any evidence that Ehrlich knew about the robocall before the fact or was part of the decision-making chain. That speaks as much to him being a disengaged manager as it does to the likely philosophical/legal objections I suspect he would have raised.

    Now, of course...hiring Henson was simply asking for trouble. Countenancing Henson's hiring given his reputation was, minimally, a terrible lapse in judgment for Ehrlich. I say "countenancing" because, knowing Bob as I do, I suspect he deferred to Schurick's "wisdom," as I have seen him defer to other subordinates' decisions before.

    As for the 2006 Philly homeless busing incident, I have always regarded that more as a ridiculous, half-baked stunt. While certainly unsavory, no one has proven it was illegal. I regard it as further evidence of a sinking campaign relying on bad ideas.

    As for whether Ehrlich will be known as the guy who suppressed African American turnout, I disagree. If anything, he will be known as the guy who tried to suppress African American turnout through a series of pointless, Wile E. Coyote style misadventures.

    Lastly, I would feel remiss if I didn't point out to you that your side of the aisle has engaged in racially charged election tactics before (e. g. campaign mailers accusing Ellen Sauerbrey of wanting to roll back civil rights laws in 1998).

    As black voters' importance continues to grow in Maryland, both sides will be tempted to rely on trickery to sway or deter their vote. The best outcome coming out of the Schurick trial would be both sides forever being deterred from engaging in these activities. I'm always hopeful, if not especially optimistic that will happen. ~ RJC

  5. Richard,
    this is why I tried to divorce the MDGOP from a candidate/politician centric orgaization to a philosophy-centric one.
    We all know how that worked out!!

  6. Apologize to Ehrlich? Are you kidding? Ehrlich campaigns have been doing this crap since before Schurick. The one constant?

    Bob Ehrlich.

  7. Jim - you might have had more success if you had invited other "establishment" Republicans to join you. Just because we supported Ehrlich over O'malley does not mean we were not supportive of your agenda.

    However, when you forced us all to choose between you or Ehrlich, most of us went with Ehrlich. Despite his many flaws, Ehrlich was still our best shot to beat O'Malley (at the time when you were Chairman).