November 2006 Ethics Dunces

Maryland Republican Leadership

Republicans in Maryland, where there were closely contested elections for both Governor and U.S. Senator, hired hundreds of poor African Americans as poll workers who were assigned to hand out blatantly misleading campaign materials at the polls. The glossy fliers showed photos of black Democratic leaders, and under the headline "Democratic Sample Ballot" were boxes checked in red for GOP Governor Ehrlich and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, neither of whom were identified as Republicans. After their names was a long list of local Democratic candidates.

This was apparently the continuation of a strategy that both Steele and Ehrlich had used in 2002, according to the Washington Post. And the Maryland Republican organization also mailed out pre-election fliers in the same vein: one sent to black voters Prince George's County displayed pictures of county Executive Jack B. Johnson, his predecessor, Wayne K. Curry and past NAACP president and former U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume under the words "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats," and declared: "These are OUR Choices." But none of the three candidates had endorsed Governor Ehrlich, and only Curry had declared his support for Steele.

Maryland GOP leaders have neither disavowed the dishonest fliers nor expressed any regret or remorse for using them. The Post reports that Ehrlich laughed off the fliers as "silly stuff" when he was asked about it. That he and his party would regard a blatantly dishonest tactic like this as a legitimate campaign device is both shocking and telling. It would be bad enough to have attempted such a thing and have to apologize for it, but to assert that trying to con citizens into voting based on misleading materials is just politics as usual shows the advanced stages of ethical rot. Everyone, not only blacks but all Democrats, Republicans and Independents should not even consider voting for a Maryland Republican until the party's leadership swears off such despicable tactics for all time. A party that will not do so is a disgrace to democracy, and cannot be trusted.




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