- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2006

A liberal political action committee in Virginia began running television ads last Monday accusing U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake of protecting her oil company contributors from tougher laws against price gouging.

MoveOn.org Political Action will spend about $240,000 on a series of 30-second spots that will air in the Hampton Roads region into June. Similar ads against Republican members of Congress from Ohio, Connecticut and Indiana drive the overall campaign cost to $1.3 million.

NBC stations in Columbus, Ohio, and Hartford, Conn., rejected the ads.

The first anti-Drake ad will run for 10 days this month at a cost of about $60,000, MoveOn said. As a special effect turns Mrs. Drake’s hand red in a picture on screen, a narrator says Mrs. Drake “has been caught red-handed, protecting oil company profits while we pay more at the pump.”

MoveOn said Mrs. Drake, a Republican representing the 2nd District, has accepted $32,250 in campaign contributions from energy and natural resources PACs while voting against several measures to crack down on oil company price gouging.

Mrs. Drake’s chief of staff, Tom Gordy, said the ad’s claims are “completely false.” He said only $7,500 of the contributions cited by MoveOn came from oil company PACs. The rest came from mining, coal and natural gas organizations, he said.

“This ad is intended to mislead voters,” Mr. Gordy said. “Thelma Drake is proud to stand on her record of protecting consumers.”

Mrs. Drake faces a challenge in November from Democrat Philip J. Kellam, commissioner of revenue in Virginia Beach.

Mr. Gordy said Mrs. Drake probably would not respond with an ad of her own.

• Diverse opinions

Several black Virginia legislators endorsed Democrat Harris Miller’s U.S. Senate campaign last week and accused his opponents of having poor track records on issues of diversity and affirmative action.

Mr. Miller said James Webb, a former Republican, and Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen both had shown insensitivity toward diversity and affirmative-action initiatives.

“Jim Webb’s views on diversity programs are in line with some of the most radical Republicans out there,” Mr. Miller said at a press conference last Monday flanked by state Sens. Benjamin J. Lambert III and Henry L. Marsh III, both from Richmond, and Delegate Lionel Spruill Sr. of Chesapeake.

Mr. Miller made note of newspaper columns Mr. Webb had written from as far back as 1995. In one, from May 2000, Mr. Webb wrote that affirmative action “has within one generation brought about a permeating state-sponsored racism that is as odious as the Jim Crow laws it sought to countermand.”

“A Soviet-style bureaucracy of political commissars now monitors every level of our society to ensure that racial and gender ‘diversity’ matches preordained models, using the awesome powers of government to make certain that white males are not ‘overrepresented’ in education, employment or government contracts,” he wrote in a column first published in the Wall Street Journal and now available on his campaign Web site.

Webb spokeswoman Kristian Todd said Mr. Miller has selectively culled from Mr. Webb’s writings to misrepresent his philosophy about affirmative action — that it should be applied according to social and economic hardship, not color.

“Mr. Miller is desperately seeking attention, and today’s news conference is the latest attempt at it,” Allen spokesman Dick Wadhams said. Mr. Allen is unopposed in his bid to win nomination for a second Senate term, even as he explores a presidential bid in 2008.

Mr. Webb, the author of several successful military suspense novels, served as President Reagan’s secretary of the Navy in the 1980s. In 2000, he endorsed Mr. Allen’s successful bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb.

“The fact is that Jim Webb has parachuted into the Democratic Party after being an active, partisan Republican for 30 years,” said Mr. Miller, a wealthy but little-known former congressional lobbyist for the information-technology industry.

Miss Todd said that though Mr. Webb is new to the Democratic Party, he is not new to its values. “He’s never been a huge, staunch Republican,” she said.

“These attacks from Miller are coming fast and furious now. I guess we’ll have to get nasty, too.”

The primary is June 13.

• Unethical hire

The Frederick, Md., ethics commission ruled that Mayor W. Jeff Holtzinger’s hiring of his sister-in-law for a city job violated the local ethics law.

The panel announced its advisory opinion last week and recommended that Donna Folden be removed from her job as a project manager and that the job opening be advertised again.

Mrs. Folden is married to Mr. Holtzinger’s wife’s brother. She gave her two-week notice and will leave April 19.

According to the commission’s findings, Mrs. Folden had stated her relationship to the mayor on her job application. Mr. Holtzinger interviewed her and four other candidates, and said he hired her because she was the best-qualified person for the job.

• More for O’Malley

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley shored up his support in Baltimore County with endorsements from more than 30 elected officials and community leaders as he seeks the Democratic nomination for governor.

Those endorsing Mr. O’Malley included four state senators, nine delegates and six County Council members.

The county is expected to be a key battleground in the general election.

In 2003, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, beat Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend with 61 percent of the vote in Baltimore County.

Mr. O’Malley is running against Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan in the September primary.

• Buddies again

Although they belong to opposing political parties, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer usually get along. By some accounts, too well. But just weeks ago, the two bickered publicly over electricity rates.

They seem to have kissed and made up.

Mr. Schaefer spent much of his comment period at last week’s Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis heaping praise on Mr. Ehrlich, calling him competent, good-hearted and even handsome. At the previous meeting, Mr. Schaefer was agitated that Mr. Ehrlich hadn’t done more to prevent double-digit electric rate increases expected when price caps expire.

“I yelled at you and called you a bad name. I regret that, but it’s one of my idiosyncrasies,” said Mr. Schaefer, who at the earlier meeting called Ehrlich “Glendening Jr.,” referring to former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat whom Mr. Schaefer dislikes intensely.

Mr. Schaefer, himself a Democrat and former governor, has been one of Mr. Ehrlich’s closest allies during the Republican’s term dealing with a Democratic legislature.

Mr. Schaefer also praised Mr. Ehrlich for working on a plan to bring down electricity rates, saying, “You’re doing a good job.”

• Acquitted

An Anne Arundel County judge acquitted state Delegate Terry R. Gilleland Jr. of drunken-driving charge because prosecutors couldn’t prove he was behind the wheel when his car crashed in July.

Mr. Gilleland’s car missed a curve on Route 100 in Glen Burnie and hit a tree. He was found walking nearby by Anne Arundel County police. Because the crash was on a state highway, the state police were summoned. Mr. Gilleland was arrested after troopers said he failed a field sobriety test.

His attorney asked for an acquittal Tuesday because the county police officers who found the Anne Arundel County Republican weren’t identified in the state police report and couldn’t be found to testify.

Mr. Gilleland is the former chairman of the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee and lives in Glen Burnie.

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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