Towson Patch has an excellent article on the politically connected Maryland public relations firm, coordinating an allegedly grassroots campaign to secure passage of Baltimore County legislation to add more speed cameras on behalf of the camera vendor.
But the grassroots effort to win council support has a powerful friend not found on its Facebook page: ACS State and Local Solutions, the company that holds the county’s speed camera contract and stands to financially benefit from the pending legislation.
Kearney O’Doherty (KO) Public Affairs, the politically connected strategy firm hired by ACS, has helped Slow Down for Baltimore County Schools communicate with County Council members and expand its base of support by establishing a separate website that sends e-mails to the elected officials and drives more “likes” to the Facebook page.
Damian O’Doherty, a KO Public Affairs partner and former county government official, told Patch in December that his political strategy firm has been working with ACS and a coalition of “educators, parents and elected officials to bring (speed cameras) to Maryland.”
O’Doherty was a top aide for former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, and his partner Steve Kearney is Governor Martin O’Malley’s former communications director. O’Doherty’s brother Ryan is the spokesman for Baltimore Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings Blake. Longtime Maryland political watchers know Ryan O’Doherty by his nom de cyber MD4Bush.
Late in the 2010 gubernatorial election, Kearney and O’Doherty emailed invitations to high dollar fund raisers for O’Malley featuring Vice President Joe Biden, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and musician Graham Nash.
The connections do not stop there. According to the Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency website, ACS has received tens of millions of dollars in state contracts since 2008. ACS president, John Brophy’s son also named John, is O’Malley’s high school classmate from Gonzaga and has set up fund raisers for the governor at the exclusive Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, where he is an officer. Ironically it was O’Malley who demonized his campaign opponent, former Governor Bob Ehrlich, for quashing the Purple Line on behalf of wealthy Columbia Country Club members.
Also, KO Public Affairs is the parent company for the allegedly straight news site Center Maryland. Center Maryland bills itself as “the news you need straight down the middle” even though the site is essentially a news aggregator and the original work it does publish is mostly political opinion and commentary, not reporting. KO Public Affairs does not disclose its clients, and Center Maryland’s editor, Howard Libit a former Baltimore Sun editor involved in the Baltimore County speed camera campaign, never responded to my inquiry if Center Maryland featured stories connected to its parent company’s clients.
However, we are still left with the question, just how many other “grass roots” efforts in Maryland are in fact corporate Astroturf campaigns run by KO Public Affairs?