Democrat Outed as 'Sleaze' Source on Mayor O'Malley: WashPost Ignored Own Story (Updated)

November 1st, 2005 11:09 PM

Thanks to the efforts of investigative reporters for WBAL in Baltimore, which has just broken the story, the former third-ranked official for the Democrat Party in Maryland has been outed as the original source for sexual slanders against Baltimore’s Democrat Mayor, Martin O’Malley, who is currently running for Governor.

The original stories in February in the Washington Post blamed the kerfuffel on Joseph Steffen, then an aide to Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich, Jr. The aide was terminated from his position as a result of his name (but not the Democrat’s name) coming out at the time.

Source: Transcript should be up, shortly.

Personal note: much of the back story on this subject occurred on, known as FR. I have written on that website, and been a speaker at several rallies in D.C., for that website and its founder, Jim Robinson. My association with the website has lasted over seven years.

Steffen was a participant in that website a year ago, under a screen name. He got into a PRIVATE conversation by “Freepmail,” a person to person communication system on that website, with someone whose screen name was MD4Bush. This person represented that he was a staunch Republican, in a state where Republicans are in a distinct minority. MD4Bush, in this private exchange, made several salacious sexual charges against the Mayor of Baltimore. MD4Bush, it now turns out, was Communications Director for the Maryland Democrats when he signed up on FR and as his first participation began pushing rumors that “O’Malley was cheating on his wife.”

Steffen did not rise to the bait on most of the charges. But he responded (shades of the Libby investigation) “I heard that, too,” with respect to one.

Within minutes of the last private communication, two reporters for the Washington Post wrote a story outing Steffen by name as an aide to Governor Ehrlich (a Republican) for dealing in rumors about O’Malley. Subsequently, Democrats in the state legislature asked for a full investigation of the Governor’s staff.

The speed with which the Post had the story suggests that they used MD4Bush as their source. And they must have had some reason for believing that their source was reliable. In short, it is highly likely that the Post knew they were getting information from a then-Democrat staffer in order to attack a Republican staffer and the Governor he worked for.

The understanding of the story would have been much better, and the story would have been far more honest, if the Post had reported that part of the story. But they did not. That suggests that the Post story was deliberately slanted to harm the Republicans and protect the Democrats, when they knew from the get-go that this was a set-up by a Democrat.

Post Script: As of the close of business on Tuesday the 1st, Ryan O'Doherty, the former Democrat Party Official was Coordinator for Business Development & Customer Relations for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. That organization reports to the Mayor of Baltimore, and the County Executives of the surrounding Counties.

In the course of highway litigation in Baltimore in the 80s, we found a handwritten note by then-Mayor of Baltimore, Donald Shaeffer, demanding the firing of a metropolitan staff member whose views were crosswise with the Mayor. Odds are, Mayor O'Malley will have seen to the firing of Mr. O'Doherty by noon on 2 November, and not a minute too soon.

Here is the complete text of Mr. O'Doherty's Profile Page on FR (punctuation as in the original): " "I hate John Kerry and I'm sick of his lies. This is the most important election in history and George bush must win. If not the Islamic Terrorists will win, there will be more attacks on the states." Nice statement for someone who was then employed as the Communications Director for the Maryland Democrat Party.


Shortly before 4 a.m. EST, the Washington Post published on line a denial that it knew who MD4Bush was.  It claimed that it received his password on FR "through an intermediary" in order to determine that the "messages were genuine."  This article was datelined "by  Washington Post Staff Writers."

The name of Matthew Mosk, principal writer on the original story in February, did not appear.  It is possible that the intermediary was the brother of the Democrat official named above, who was then working for Mongomery County Executive Duncan, who is running against O'Malley in the Democrat primary, and if won, against Ehrlich in the general election.  That would make the original story a two-fer smear -- harm O'Malley, and blame it on Ehrlich.

Also, the Post asserts that MD4Bush "was not working for the Democrat Party" at the time the story appeared.  How would the Post know that, if it didn't know who MD4Bush really was?  A screen capture from Google showed him as working for the Md. Democrat Party as of January.  The story broke on 8 February.


Also, didn't Ben Bradlee insist on knowing who Deep Throat was, as the main source for Woodward and Bernstein in the Wategate coverage?  Didn't the Post get a black eye subsequently, and have to fire a reporter and return a Pulitzer Prize over articles, without a legitimate source, on an 8-year-old heroin addict in D.C.?  Has the Post now relaxed its standards for anonymous sources?

Also, exactly an hour before the original Post story ran electronically on 8 February (in print the lext day), MD4Bush dumped the whole correspondence from the Freepmail (where only the participants can see it and privacy concerns applied) to a public forum where anyone could read and use it.  Did a Post reporter himself or herself make this public dump precisely to set up the story that was already written?  An hour between last available information and publication of a story is extremely tight, unless the Post was in on the gag.

In short, the denials of the Post raise many more questions than they answer.  I am authorized to say that FR will guard anyone's privacy, including MC4Bush, until and unless an appropriate subpeona is issued, seeking such information.