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Md. prosecutor's office has election robocall case

December 09, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — A letter released Wednesday confirms that a complaint about a Washington County election robocall has been sent to the Office of the State Prosecutor.

However, there’s no indication that the prosecutor’s office will take the case.

Elizabeth Paul, chairwoman of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee, had asked the Maryland Attorney General’s Office to investigate the robocall because of a questions about who authorized it and whether a state law was broken.

The recorded message on the automated call, which attacked then-County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire, said the Washington County Republican Central Committee paid for it. However, the Republican Central Committee has insisted the “authority line” was not true, and the committee wasn’t behind the call.

In Maryland, misuse of an authority line on an election advertisement is a misdemeanor.

Paul contacted the attorney general’s office on Nov. 9.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said in a Nov. 23 e-mail that the case would be forwarded to the state prosecutor’s office, which handles election-law violations.

On Wednesday, Guillory provided a copy of a brief Nov. 30 letter from Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey L. Darsie to Deputy State Prosecutor Thomas M. McDonough.

“After our review, this office has concluded that the matter should be referred to the Office of the State Prosecutor for appropriate handling,” the letter said.

McDonough said in a telephone interview that his office has a general policy of not confirming or denying if it’s investigating a complaint unless it recommends prosecution — meaning there might not be a public resolution to the robocall case if there is no prosecution.

Paul wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday that she has received a copy of Darsie’s letter.

She also wondered why Republicans haven’t tried harder to find out or clarify what happened.

She wrote: “I am extremely disappointed that some of our recently elected Republican officials have acknowledged that they know who was involved in the calls, but they still are refusing to say, and that the Republican Central Committee is not more aggressively pursuing who misused their name. Those in politics shouldn’t condone or cover up lawbreaking or unethical behavior in an effort to win an election.

“As a teacher, I tell students that character counts. I would hope that the adults who are governing us would believe the same.”

Republican Central Committee members have said they’re waiting for state authorities to investigate.

The call attacking Aleshire went out the day before the Nov. 2 election. Aleshire, the only Democratic commissioner candidate, lost his bid for re-election, but hasn’t blamed the robocall or pushed for an investigation.

Sen.-elect Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, has said he was part of a discussion about making an anti-Aleshire robocall, but he broke away from the talks to focus on an eleventh-hour election challenge by Sen. Donald F. Munson.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham, also a Republican, has said she was asked to help with the robocall, but refused.

Shank and Callaham have declined to reveal who else was involved in the plans for the robocall, but Shank has said “a series of unfortunate mistakes,” and not fraud, led to the Republican Central Committee being credited with the call.

A week after the election, Vic Gresham of Conquest Communications Group in Richmond, Va., told a reporter that the Washington County Republican Central Committee hired his company to place the call. He promised to provide more details, but hasn’t returned numerous phone messages since then.

Last week, Broc Johnson of Conquest Communications answered an e-mail inquiry with: “No disrespect intended to you personally, but we will not comment on this issue. Best wishes for a nice day.”

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