- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2011

ANNAPOLIS Gov. Martin O’Malley said Thursday that he will relinquish campaign donations given to him by a former adviser convicted of tax evasion.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, said he will follow fellow state party members who have given back money they received from Richard Stewart, a member of the governor’s five-member redistricting advisory panel who failed to pay nearly $4 million in taxes from 2003 to 2008.

“We’ll do the same thing,” Mr. O’Malley said, adding that he has not decided whether to return a $7,000 donation he received from Stewart or donate it to charity.

The governor had appointed Stewart, a Mitchellville businessman, to the Maryland Stadium Authority and to the redistricting panel, which laid the groundwork this year for Maryland’s new congressional map and a legislative map to be debated next month.

The governor says he was unaware of Stewart’s legal problems until last week when the Justice Department announced he had plead guilty.

Stewart resigned from the stadium authority after his conviction, but Mr. O’Malley declined to remove him from the redistricting panel, arguing there was no point since the group had completed its work.

State Republicans have called on Democrats to return more than $73,000 in donations they received from Stewart from 2003 to 2008, including the $7,000 donation to Mr. O’Malley.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, a Democrat, announced this week he will return $5,750 he received from Stewart.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, has said he will donate a $1,500 contribution form Stewart to charity.

State GOP Executive Director David Ferguson said Thursday that he is fine with the governor giving up the money but thinks Stewart’s two state appointments are signs of bigger problems.

Mr. Ferguson questioned Stewart’s qualifications and the vetting processes for both posts. And he suggested that Stewart received his appointments based largely on the donations, not on his public-service experience.

“The overarching problem in Maryland is buying access, and pay-to-play is very serious,” Mr. Ferguson said. “There are a lot of questions the governor still needs to answer.”

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