- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 28, 2012

Former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden came under scrutiny last week from opponents of a Maryland gambling referendum after he appeared in a television ad supporting casino expansion.

In the ad, the 6-foot-9, 345-pound former All-Pro towers behind Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as she touts the benefits of Question 7, which would allow table games at existing facilities and a new Prince George’s County casino.

The mayor, a Democrat, accuses opponents of being bankrolled by West Virginia casino owners and warns them not to make her “send Jonathan Ogden over there.”

“You don’t want to upset Jonathan Ogden,” she says at one point.

“No you don’t,” Mr. Ogden says, shaking his head.

The ad was paid for by For Maryland Jobs and Schools, which has spent more than $32 million supporting Question 7, of which $29.4 million has come from MGM Resorts International — the developer that wants to build and operate a Prince George’s casino.

The ad raised the ire of Get the Facts — Vote No on 7, the opposing committee which has spent $33.5 million fighting Question 7. It has received $34 million of its money from Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, W.Va., and was the obvious subject of Mrs. Rawlings-Blake’s accusation.

The committee — not taking too kindly to allegations of out-of-state allegiance — issued a statement throwing a red challenge flag on Mr. Ogden, pointing out that he now lives in Las Vegas and not Baltimore.

Not to be outdone, For Maryland Jobs and Schools responded with its own statement accusing its opponents of insulting Maryland’s football-loving voters.

“Does this West Virginia company really think that the way to win an election is to attack one of the greatest Ravens in team history?” a spokeswoman asked in a news release.

Another political football

Mr. Ogden isn’t the only football player to make waves by weighing in on a Maryland ballot issue.

While the airwaves in Maryland have been filled with commercials about the same-sex marriage referendum, none of them has been quite as colorful as one on the air in Minnesota that invokes Maryland Delegate Emmett Burns.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe made national news last month when he wrote a creatively worded letter to Mr. Burns about his stance on same-sex marriage. Mr. Burns, a Baltimore County Democrat, started the fight after writing a letter to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, telling him it was inappropriate for Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayenbadejo to openly support Maryland’s same-sex marriage ballot issue.

Kluwe responded with a strongly worded letter to Mr. Burns that said, among other things, that legalizing gay marriage in Maryland would not make him become attracted to men — only he said it a little more colorfully.

In Kluwe’s home state of Minnesota, which also has a same-sex marriage issue on next month’s ballot, the Vikings player cut a radio ad invoking his much quoted insult. The ad begins with a man’s voice calling himself “the government” at Kluwe’s front door, asking him questions about his letter to Mr. Burns.

“You can’t go around calling elected officials [that really colorful term],”the man’s voice tells Kluwe.

“Actually, I can,” Kluwe replies. “This is America.”

D.C. Chartered’s identity crisis

About a year ago, not too many residents of the District would know a lick about a company called the D.C. Chartered Health Plan. And why would they? A managed-care company that makes sure Medicaid patients are linked up to health-care providers isn’t too eye-catching when you’ve got bicycle lanes, cupcakes and Lincoln Navigator-related scandals to worry about.

But federal prosecutors’ revelations that Chartered’s owner, Jeffrey E. Thompson, may have injected at least $650,000 in unreported funds to Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign have put the company on the map. Just this month, the city took over Chartered through a court receivership amid news of at least $4 million in shaky bookkeeping at the company.

Mr. Thompson has not been charged with anything, and his company is free to rebid for its lucrative contract before it expires in April. But that’s where it gets tricky, considering the city’s nascent status as Chartered’s overlord.

“If we as the government submit the proposal to ourselves, and we win — see what I’m saying?” D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent, said.

Insurance and health care officials assured Mr. Catania that nepotism will not reign when the contract is awarded. As a rule, Chartered’s executives can rebid for the contract, but cannot actually win it if the company is still under receivership.

Plus, it quite an understatement to say the odds are stacked against Chartered.

“It’s finished, as far as I’m concerned,” Mr. Catania said.

Megan Poinski, David Hill and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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