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Maryland: flyers falsely claiming black Democrats' support for GOP ticket may have violated law

The Washington Post reports: The misleading fliers distributed on Election Day by poor, out-of-state workers suggesting that top Republican candidates had the backing of key black Democrats do not appear to be illegal but could have a lasting impact on the Republican Party's efforts to attract African American voters, political experts said yesterday.

The fliers included a "Democratic Sample Ballot" suggesting that voters back Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, both Republicans. Entitled "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats," it pictured three influential Democrats -- Wayne K. Curry, Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson and Kweisi Mfume -- and said at the bottom, "These are OUR choices." Curry had endorsed Steele but not Ehrlich, and neither Johnson nor Mfume had endorsed either candidate. ...

State law does not generally prohibit making misleading claims on campaign literature, several experts said yesterday, but election law might have been violated if the workers who distributed the fliers were hired by a political committee that is not registered to engage in campaign finance activity.

A spokeswoman for the campaign, Shareese DeLeaver, said Tuesday that the group "Democrats for Ehrlich" had arranged for the distribution of the fliers. But according to the State Board of Elections, the only registered organization that has used a similar name is "Democrats for (Robert) Ehrlich," an Ehrlich campaign committee that was disbanded nearly four years ago. -- Misleading Fliers May Hurt GOP Among Black Voters - washingtonpost.com

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