Saturday, March 12, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — Included in the thousands of pages of documents released by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s office dealing with former aide Joseph Steffen were occasional memos and e-mails giving a rare inside look at how state governments are organized to promote the person sitting in the governor’s office.

Mr. Ehrlich’s communications aides are doing what other Republican and Democratic administrations in Maryland and across the country strive to do, which is make the governor look good and boost chances of a first-term executive to win re-election. But their goal is to do it a little more aggressively and effectively than most.

In the documents provided to news organizations Friday, Paul Schurick, Mr. Ehrlich’s communications director, promised a communications and marketing strategy “unlike this or, to my knowledge, any other state has attempted.”

There would be a joint marketing, communications and advertising effort so that the state would speak with one voice to voters “about what the governor and state agencies are doing to deliver services that will make their lives better,” Mr. Schurick wrote to state communications employees.

“In order to get maximum exposure, the governor has agreed to aggressively increase his availability to appear at agency events in order to gain wider exposure and thus helping promote state agencies to their constituencies,” the undated memo stated.

Also involved would be the State Marketing Office in the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), where the new plan to put the governor out front was already paying dividends, Mr. Schurick said.

What has followed has been an aggressive campaign to make Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, the face and voice of all that is right with Maryland.

His schedules are filled with events designed to attract television cameras and reporters to hear about what state government is doing. And he is the featured performer in a series of advertisements promoting Maryland tourism that some Democrats say is more about promoting the first-term governor.

Greg Massoni, Mr. Ehrlich’s deputy director of communications, said yesterday the purpose is “showing leadership by the governor, whether it’s good news or bad news.”

“What we are trying to do, and I think we are fairly successful, is to coordinate the message,” Mr. Massoni said. “We think it’s pretty revolutionary.”

While the administration is pursuing the aggressive agenda laid out by Mr. Schurick, it also is aggressive in its dealings with the news media, most notably its high-profile court battle with the Baltimore Sun over a directive sent out by the governor’s press office cutting off the access of a Sun columnist and a reporter to anyone in the executive branch of government.

Mr. Steffen was fired last month for spreading rumors about Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a potential Democratic challenger for the governor’s office.

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