CouchGate Is Over

If Larry Hogan is going to get any traction on his war with former Governor Martin O’Malley, he’s not getting any help from the office of Attorney General Brian Frosh. CouchGate, the manufactured flap over O’Malley’s purchase of nine year old furniture, failed to launch this week.

The Maryland State Ethics Commission will not launch an inquiry related to former governor Martin O’Malley’s purchase of furniture from the governor’s mansion in Annapolis, according to a statement Thursday night from the state Attorney General’s office.

Upon leaving office in January, the family of O’Malley, a Democratic presidential hopeful, took dozens of items that his administration had deemed “excess property” to furnish their new home in Baltimore.

As first reported last month by the Baltimore Sun, the family paid $9,638 for beds, chairs, desks, lamps, mirrors and other items from the mansion’s living quarters that originally cost taxpayers $62,000. Many of the pieces were eight years old or more, and they were discounted by administration officials to reflect their age.

The Sun reported that a lawyer for the state Department of General Services, which approved the purchases, had asked the ethics commission to weigh in on the “propriety” of the transactions.

In Thursday’s statement, the Attorney General’s office said it had been advised by the ethics commission that it “has no jurisdiction over the matter, and that no investigation was commenced or is underway. “

The Attorney General’s also office said that the sale of furniture to O’Malley was approved “under established procedures.” A similar, though smaller, transaction took place when O’Malley’s Republican predecessor, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., left office in 2007.

The lawyer who requested the involvement of the ethics commission is employed by the Attorney General’s Office and assigned to provide legal advice to the Department of General Services.

Last week it was furniture, this week it’s the contract between O’Malley and a company that provides data and technology services to drive policy decisions. O’Malley’s involvement with this issue dates back to his time as Mayor of Baltimore (City Stat then, State Stat later when he became governor).

One piece of advice for the governor - if you’re going to question someone’s ethics, at least get your facts straight. I know it’s a challenge for you, but give it a shot. It really helps your credibility.

Hogan, in questioning the arrangement, spoke as if O’Malley’s payment from Esri was based on a single appearance.

“I hope that was a hell of a speech,” Hogan said. “I’ve never heard a governor give a $140,000 speech.”

O’Malley has given four speeches, not one. He also provides consulting services to the comps you as well. But hey, Hogan got what he wanted - to continue the sniping at his predecessor.

What will the next exciting non-scandal be? Tune in next week and find out. As always, I’ll bring the popcorn.