Skip to comments.MD4Bush Primer 2.0
Posted on 11/10/2005 3:24:05 AM PST by conservative in nyc
Who is MD4Bush?
MD4Bush was an infrequent poster on Free Republic from 10/07/04 to 02/08/05. He usually posted during regular business hours, mainly discussing Maryland politics. All of MD4Bush's public posts are available here. In an apparent attempt to bait FReeper NCPAC (now known as Joseph Steffen, former staffer to Republican Maryland Governor Ehrlich) into incriminating conversations, MD4Bush spread rumors of Democrat Baltimore Mayor Martin OMalley's infidelity, called Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) a "lezbo", smeared Illinois U.S. Senator Barak Obama (D-IL), and discussed the alleged tactics of Karl Rove.
The February 2005 Old vs. New Media Wars
A battle was brewing between the Old and New Media in February 2005. Bloggers pressured CNN to fire its chief, Eason Jordan, who had publicly accused the U.S. military of deliberately targeting journalists in order to assassinate them. The Old Media pressured Talon News White House Correspondent Jeff Gannon to quit his New Media reporting gig. And the MD4Bush affair exploded right here on Free Republic.
The MD4Bush Scandal: February 8-9, 2005
During a packed news conference on 02/08/05 before the National Press Club, Democrat Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley stuck his foot in his mouth, likening President Bush's proposed budget cuts to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Later that day, someone logged on MD4Bush's account and publicly posted previously PRIVATE FReepmails from Steffen to MD4Bush on Free Republic. The poster of these one-sided FReepmails underlined Steffen's most provocative comments.
The next morning, the Washington Post ran a front page story originally entitled O'Malley Blames GOP Plot For Rumors (later headline: Ehrlich Aide Ousted Over O'Malley Rumors), which detailed the underlined FReepmail content posted on the public forum and outed Steffen as NCPAC. A story about Mayor O'Malley's gaffe was buried on page A5. The Washington Post reporter on the MD4Bush story, Matthew Mosk, interviewed the OMalley camp about the rumors (who accused Ehrlich "agents" of "spreading false rumors" on Free Republic) and reported that Ehrlich had accepted Steffens resignation.
In fact, the O'Malley infidelity rumors predated any Free Republic post about them and were widespread. On the Internet, the rumors were posted on USENET, in the DCRTV.ORG mailbag (click here, search for "illegitimate" and scroll up, and here, search for "twin babies" and scroll up), and elsewhere. According to WBAL-TV, "At the Baltimore Sun, the rumor was so frequently discussed on its online message board that the paper in 06/04 stopped allowing rumor postings to appear." And Mayor O'Malley's own wife addressed the rumors in the 03/10/00 edition of the Washington Post, blaming Mayor O'Malley's opponents "from when he was a councilman" for spreading them.
Even Mayor O'Malley himself alluded to the rumors at an early November 2004 news conference (video href="http://mfile.akamai.com/12903/wmv/vod.ibsys.com/2005/1109/5285623.200k.asx">here) on the firing of his police chief:
There have been -- in the course of this character smear style politics -- numerous allegations pushed about me. Does that say something about me, or the person making the allegations?"
Mayor O'Malley denied knowing about the Free Republic postings last November.
The Immediate Aftermath
In the ensuing weeks, the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, New York Times and other local and national news organizations ran numerous stories about the MD4Bush affair. You can find some of those articles here and here. Most of these articles described Steffen as a self-described "Prince of Darkness" engaged in a dirty trick campaign to spread rumors about the Democrat Mayor of Baltimore, tasked by a Republican governor the to fire "innocent" state employees.
The Maryland At-Will Employee Firing Investigation
Democrats held the Maryland Governor's office for 34 years before Governor Ehrlich was elected in 2002. Likely as a result, approximately 7000 state government workers (out of a total of 80,000) can be fired "at-will"; however not all of these 7000 employees may be fired by the governor. The other 73,000 employees are likely civil servants that usually must take tests to get a job or gain a promotion.
Some of these "at-will" employees owe their jobs and their loyalty to the Democrat party. For example, Mayor O'Malley's sister-in-law, Melinda O'Malley, is a lawyer representing the Maryland Insurance Administration. She serves in the administration at the discretion of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran (D), Mayor O'Malley's father-in-law, and has not been fired. And Baltimore City Councilman, Vincent J. Gardinia (D), was supervisor of dredging projects for the Maryland Environmental Service before being fired by the Ehrlich administration. According to many newspaper reports, Steffen was tasked with deciding whether to fire some of Maryland "at-will" government employees.
At least 284 state workers have been fired since Governor Ehrlich took office in January 2003. Three of the fired employees, including Councilman Gardinia, hired Daniel Clements, "a Baltimore trial lawyer with ties to the Democratic Party" to represent them in wrongful termination cases against the state of Maryland.
A few months after the MD4Bush saga was first reported by the Washington Post, the Maryland General Assembly formed a special panel to investigate the alleged unfair firing practices of at-will employees by the Ehrlich administration based on the dirty tricks methods of Steffen. When the committee was convened, Ehrlich Chief Counsel Jervis Finney and Republican legislators suggested it look in to the postings of MD4Bush to balance their view on Steffen, but he and the Maryland Republicans were rebuffed when the committee decided not to grant subpoena power to committee Republicans.
The Michelle Lane Detour
On 03/24/05, the Washington Post, WBAL-TV and others reported that a former Ehrlich administration employee, Michelle Lane, sent a threatening e-mail to Governor Ehrlich's office four days after the MD4Bush story first broke. In the e-mail, Ms. Lane threatened to release information about the Ehrlich administration's attempt to fire workers at the Maryland Public Service Commission unless certain unspecified rumors about her stopped. According to press reports, Michelle Lane may have had a romantic relationship with Steffen.
Michelle Lane was literally cut out of the picture of Joe Steffen and Governor Ehrlich that was sent to reporters in an e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free Republic's founder, Jim Robinson had this to say about whether he thought Michelle Lane was MD4Bush:
I don't think this is MD4Bush. We can probably rule out about half of the general population and this lady is one. Course, I would have no idea if they were working in concert. Not saying or even hinting they were, just have no idea. Some reporter mentioned in an article a few weeks ago that certain emails were circulated from mddems.org. Doubt the investigation can go there, but that'd probably be a good place to start if they could. I think it should be obvious to all that MD4Bush was a Democrat politcial operative. A dirty tricks communications specialist so to speak.
But did Michelle Lane tip off the O'Malley administration to NCPAC's identity in a failed attempt to get a city job?
Ms. Lane, an Ehrlich appointee, was fired from the Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families in June 2004. According to WBAL-TV, on 07/27/04, Ms. Lane met with Mayor O'Malley's then-Health Commissioner, Dr. Peter Beilenson. Joseph Steffen's name came up in that conversation. Two weeks later, Ms. Lane met with Baltimore's First Deputy Mayor, Michael Enright, who told WBAL-TV that she asked for a job and mentioned Steffen.
Michelle Lane's lawyer, Daniel Clements (the same politically connected Democrat lawyer representing 3 other fired workers), told WBAL-TV that Ms. Lane "never discussed the rumors with the O'Malley administration or who may have been spreading them" but "merely tipped off the mayor's camp about Steffen's role as a political operative." He also denied any romantic relationship between Steffen and Ms. Lane or that Ms. Lane was MD4Bush.
Recent Developments: Unmasking MD4Bush?
On 11/01/05, WBAL radio in Baltimore reported that MD4Bush may be Ryan ODoherty, the former research and communications director for the Maryland Democratic Party. Ryan O'Doherty purportedly sent an e-mail on 02/08/05 (prior to the Washington Post's article). Below is the content of the "Big Story" e-mail, which was attached to a letter from Finney to the Special Committee:
There will be a big story in the Post either tomorrow or Thursday that credits Gov. Ehrlich's staff for creating and spreading the nasty and untrue rumor about our Mayor and his family," the e-mail reads. It goes on to mention a top O'Malley aide who "asked me to contact you to see if you could show your disgust by calling into WBAL Radio after the story hits ... it is top secret!
I voted for Ehrlich because I thought he would get rid of the culture of corruption and assassin politics of Annapolis -- he has only made it worse. He should be ashamed of the dirty smear campaign perpetuated by his own staff. It disgusts me to know that my tax dollars paid for this filth.
This will be the biggest story of the year. Thanks for your help.
In an e-mail to WBAL Radio, Ryan ODoherty denied he drafted the 02/08/05 "Big Story" e-mail:
Through news outlets over the course of several months, I have learned of the content of this alleged e-mail, and I can say without a doubt that I did not write it. In fact, I did not work for the Democratic Party at the time the e-mail was allegedly sent and I'm even told that my e-mail address shown on the document is incorrect. I'm disappointed someone is circulating a document without bothering to verify its authenticity.
While the FEC has no record of payments made by the Maryland Democratic Party to Ryan O'Doherty in 2005, he was on the party's payroll in 2004. A Google-cached press release from January 9, 2005 lists Mr. O'Doherty as the contact person. And the Washington Post referred to Mr. O'Doherty as being "of the Maryland Democratic Party" on January 23. Even if Mr. O'Doherty was not officially working for the Maryland Democratic Party on February 8, it is not known whether his mddems.org e-mail account was active. But did Mr. O'Doherty write the e-mail and is the e-mail address correct?
On 11/07/05, Jim Robinson released the following statement:
Free Republic has evidence that an mddems.org (Maryland Democratic Party) e-mail address is associated with the MD4BUSH account. This is not just coincidence.
On the same day, David Collins of WBAL-TV confronted Mr. O'Doherty about the "Big Story" e-mail (video here). When confronted by David Collins with other e-mails indicating that Mr. O'Doherty had sent e-mails using his "Big Story" e-mail address, and asked whether he used two different e-mail addresses, the former Maryland Democrat party spokesman responded "I'm not going to answer any further questions. Thank you."
WBAL-TV also reported that Ryan O'Doherty is a friend of O'Malley Communications director Steve Kearney. Steve Kearney tried to get Mr. O'Doherty a City Hall job in 2005. And evidence suggests that Steve Kearney and Ryan O'Doherty worked together in the Baltimore Archdiocese's communications department. Although it is not certain, Steve Kearney is likely the "Steve" referred to in the "Big Story" e-mail.
On 11/09/05, Keiffer Mitchell, a Baltimore City Councilman and the co-chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party condemned the personal attacks used by MD4Bush to entrap Steffen on Free Republic, and encouraged his party to launch an investigation (video here). WBAL-TV also reported:
Sources said at least one top aide to O'Malley was aware of the online postings in November. The aide denies that. [WBAL-TV Reporter Jayne] Miller reported that several weeks before the story broke, one O'Malley associate outside City Hall knew enough about the story to try to help The Washington Post reach a key figure in the rumor.
Mayor O'Malley again denied knowing the identity of MD4Bush.
Is Ryan O'Doherty MD4Bush? Well, the evidence is certainly mounting and there's an awful lot of smoke coming from that direction.
The Role of the Washington Post
Cooperation in a Dirty Trick?
Questions are also still lingering about Washington Post's role in the deception. On 02/11/05 Freerepublic owner Jim Robinson wrote:
I've got some very interesting information for the governor's investigation regarding the Maryland Democrat Party dirty trickster that setup Steffen and the Washington Post
reporter er, Democrat operative that was working in concert with him. Almost hoping to receive a subpoena.
Matthew Mosk has written most of the Washington Post's articles on the MD4Bush saga. Did he and the Washington Post collude with MD4Bush? The Washington Post responded through Maryland editor R.B. Brenner in a 11/02/05 article:
Brenner said, "The Washington Post had no involvement in any way in the chat room postings" between Steffen and MD4BUSH. "The Post did not know about them until after they had already occurred, as we have reported."
Brenner said The Post does not know the identity of MD4BUSH, which the newspaper also has reported.
Post reporter Matthew Mosk received printed copies of the message exchanges last fall, Brenner said. To verify they were authentic, he said, Mosk was given sign-on information needed to view the private chat room by an intermediary acting on behalf of MD4BUSH in late January. Mosk used that information to verify that "the chat room messages were genuine," Brenner said. Mosk presented the printouts to Steffen in February to confirm that they represented his words.
So the Washington Post admits receiving MD4Bush's password from an "intermediary". Who was that intermediary? Ryan O'Doherty's brother Damian ODoherty esq., chief advisor for Democrat Baltimore County executive Jim Smith? Politically-connected Baltimore Democrat lawyer Daniel Clements? Or some yet unknown "O'Malley associate outside City Hall"?
Ethical Concerns and the ECPA
Free Republic.com called a press conference at 9:30AM on 11/04/05 in front of the Washington Post building in Washington, D.C. to discuss the role of the Washington Post and Mayor O'Malley in the MD4Bush scandal. According to press reports, Free Republic.com did not unmask MD4Bush at the press conference. Instead, Free Republic.com spokesman, Kristinn Taylor, called for an internal Washington Post investigation of reporter Matthew Mosk's alleged abuses of Washington Post ethical standards. and questioned whether the Washington Post violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) when it logged on Free Republic as MD4Bush.
On 03/07/04, Washington Post editor Leonard Downie Jr. set forth guidelines for the paper's reporting using anonymous sources. In particular, Mr. Downie explained that the paper will:
try to explain to readers why a source is not being named. We also will strive to tell our readers as much as we can about why such a source would be knowledgeable and whether the source has a particular point of view -- for example, "a police official involved in the investigation," "an aide to a Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee" or "a senior Pentagon official who disagrees with the administration's policy." We want at least one Post editor to know the identity of each unnamed source cited in the newspaper, as was the case during Watergate, so that editors can help decide whether to use the source in a story.
The Washington Post has not told its readers anything descriptive about the "intermediary" who gave the paper MD4Bush's password , let alone whether he or she has a particular political point of view. And unless the Washington Post is lying, nobody - not even an editor - knows the name of its ultimate source, MDBush, let alone whether MD4Bush has a particular axe to grind. The Washington Post claims it is still trying to track down MD4Bush. But WBAL-TV has been in front of this story while the Washington Post merely reacts and follows.
Free Republic.com spokesman Kristinn Taylor and other FReepers have alleged that the Washington Post may have been violated the ECPA when it used MD4Bush's password to log on Free Republic. Under the Free Republic Registration and User Agreement, a user "agrees to protect user's account and password and not to disclose account information to any third party." MD4Bush disclosed his password to the Washington Post in violation of the user agreement. Because of this, the Washington Post arguably could not have been authorized to access MD4Bush's account, and thus intentionally exceeded MD4Bush's authorization to access Free Republic's private FReepmail facility in violation of Section 2071(a)(2) of the ECPA.
You clarify the story for those, like me, who tuned in late and couldn't always figure out what was going on. Thank you.
For later reading
Excellent summary for all who continue to get interested in this matter.
Other than the posting of the NCPAC/MD4Bush freepmails, I have never seen freepmails copied and pasted to open threads. I am not aware that Freepers have ever done that.
Perhaps you could add a paragraph highlighting how far over the line and how out of character for this website that action was.
The whole MD4Bush deal should have been obvious to all as a dem smear tactic. There are only four Repub's in MD. The Governor, Steele, myself and a fourth who lives as a hermit, avoiding all contact with other human beings.
Hindsight is always 20/20.
Hello, I'm here too...echo
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