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Jealous asks convicted lobbyist for help, contradicting ethics reform proposal

Ben Jealous, a former NAACP president who is running as the Democrat for governor of Maryland, poses for a photograph in Baltimore on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, after talking to The Associated Press about his effort to unseat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Jealous said he would support broadening a new Maryland gun-control law to restrict firearms access to people found to be a risk to themselves or others, if elected governor. (AP Photo/David McFadden)

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous. (AP Photo/David McFadden)

Ben Jealous placed nearly a half-dozen calls to a lobbyist convicted of mail fraud asking for help on his campaign — an action that contradicts the ethics reform proposal the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial nominee released Wednesday.

Gerard Evans, who was convicted of mail fraud 18 years ago, Wednesday released audio of one voice mail left by Jealous in which the candidate outlines his campaign and appears to be seeking support. Jealous, during his news conference, said the call “was made in error.”

“I just found it curious,” said Evans, speaking of Jealous’ ethics reform plan in which he said that, as governor, he would refuse to meet with lobbyists convicted of crimes such as fraud.

“I’m for Larry Hogan,” said Evans in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “Duplicity is a commodity I know many people think is common among lobbyists. Not from me. I’m for Larry Hogan. I find it duplicitous that (Jealous) would say he doesn’t want to meet with me and then call and ask me for help. It just seems odd.”

Evans was convicted of defrauding clients of $400,000 and sentenced to serve time in a federal prison in Cumberland.

Since returning to the Annapolis lobbying corps, Evans is frequently among the highest earning lobbyists, according to reports filed with the Maryland State Ethics Commission.

During his news conference, Jealous specifically mentions Evans and Bruce Bereano.

“Unlike Larry Hogan who has met and raised money with convicted lobbyists, I won’t take meetings with registered lobbyists with a criminal history related to fraud corruption or any other lobbying-related crime,” Jealous said. “The people of Maryland deserve that as a basic minimum standard of ethical behavior and I’m honestly at a loss why Larry Hogan has asked people like Gerry Evans and Bruce (Bereano) to raise money for him, has met with them has been even on their yachts.”

The proposal from Jealous is similar to the practice implemented by Democratic former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who froze out both Evans and Bereano during his time in office.

In the 1-minute and 23-second phone message, Jealous asks Evans for his support.

“I’m calling about the campaign for governor,” Jealous said in the message. “I’d love to talk to you about how we’re going to win.”

Jealous then goes on to provide a Massachusetts phone number for Manjiri Machak, the candidate’s fundraiser.

Jealous then asks Evans to call Machak who will “set up a time for us to talk.”

Evans said he’s received “four or five calls” from Jealous since the June primary and some others from Susan Turnbull, Jealous’ running mate, with whom Evans said he’s had a long-standing personal relationship.

The voice mail released Wednesday was left as recently as two weeks ago, said Evans.

Evans said he did not meet with Jealous.

“This is a campaign in the final death throes, and I’m guessing he’s going to try anything even if it contradicts with positions he’s taking,” Evans said. “It’s desperation.”

Jealous announced his series of proposed ethics reforms at a news conference in Baltimore. Included in those is a proposal to end what he calls “pay-to-play politics” and a vow to not meet with lobbyists convicted of fraud or corruption charges.

“That call was made in error,” said Jealous of his call to Evans. “We have a vetting process. Had a check ever come in from him, we would have returned it. We’ve shown that we’re willing to return checks that come in that don’t pass our vet.

“We requested a meeting in error, we never would have taken money from him,” said Jealous, who added that other calls to Evans from both himself and Turnbull were also errors.

Jealous in a brief interview following the news conference said he was unaware that the man on the list was the well-known Annapolis lobbyist.

“I know at least three or four people named Gerry Evans,” said Jealous. “I believe the former leader of Sinn Fein was named Gerry Evans, as I recall.”

The longtime leader of the political arm of the Irish Republican Army is named Gerry Adams.

“The call was made in error,” said Jealous. “A check comes in, we return it, lots of Gerry Evans in the world, I didn’t know which one I was calling.”

Scott Sloofman, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said the voicemail shows “Ben Jealous has been repeatedly violating his own ethics proposal, and it proves he cannot be trusted to run an ethical administration.”

During his news conference, Jealous announced a series of proposed ethics reforms including bills that would prohibit contractors with the state from donating to campaigns, a vow to not appoint donors to state positions, and laws requiring the release of tax returns of candidates, including those running for president.

Jealous also criticized Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr. for campaigning while retaining his state position and for accepting nearly $60,000 in contributions from insurance-related donors.  The Democratic candidate for governor said he would not permit Cabinet appointees to run for office while serving.

Redmer is running for Baltimore County Executive against Democrat John Olszewski Jr., who has not endorsed Jealous. The county is key for both Jealous and Hogan.

The criticisms are similar to those leveled at Redmer by conservative Republican Del. Patrick McDonough, who lost the Republican primary for Baltimore County executive.

The Redmer campaign said the commissioner has returned about $10,000 in insurance-related donors. The money identified by the Maryland Democratic Party did not come from donors regulated by the state.

Johnny O and Ben Jealous know they are losing big in Baltimore County and are so desperate they are willing to say anything, and even blatantly lie, to distract voters from their failing campaigns,” said Hannah Marr, a Redmer spokeswoman.