Is Center Maryland A Racket?

Adam Pagnucco of Maryland Politics Watch and I don’t agree on much. However, we do agree that Center Maryland, the so called news site, which bills itself as “the news you need straight down the middle” is anything but.

To recap, Center Maryland is the creation of Steve Kearney and Damian O’Doherty the principle owners of Kearney O’Doherty Public Relations. Kearney is a former top advisor to Governor Martin O’Malley, and O’Doherty worked for O’Malley ally, Baltimore County Executive, Jim Smith. Others involved in Center Maryland include Otis Rolley another former O’Malley aide, and businessmen Martin Knott and Tom Loveland. Center Maryland’s editor is Howard Libit, former editor at the Baltimore Sun, and employee of KO PR.

I first called attention to the distinctly partisan foundations of Center Maryland back in January, as did Adam. However, Democrat partisanship masked in mealy mouthed centrism isn’t the only concern one should have about Center Maryland. Pagnucco notes from Kearney’s Linked In profile:

KO Public Affairs is a strategic communications firm that helps clients win where business, government, politics and media meet. The firm’s clients include leading corporations and associations in the real estate, energy, health care, technology, transportation, retail and sports/entertainment industries.

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Pagnucco presents concrete examples of how Center Maryland is “a playground for the real estate, development, and power industries–all represented by KO.”
KO Public Relations does not disclose their clients so readers have no way of knowing if Center Maryland is reporting on stories for which it’s founders are simultaneously representing clients.

Is this all a just a big racket?

Take storm water regulations for example, an issue Center Maryland has covered ad nauseum. In 2007 Kearney’s boss, Martin O’Malley backed and signed into law stringent storm water regulations. Is Kearney now enriching himself by helping clients water down those regulations? We don’t know because KO PR won’t disclose their clients.

Four days ago I emailed Howard Libit and asked point blank if Center Maryland:

1. Has ever reported or editorialized on an issue for which KO PR is representing clients?

2. Does KO PR have clients with a stake in the storm water regulation issue?

3. Center Maryland takes a specific position on clean energy. Does KO PR have clients in the energy industry: wind, solar, nuclear, etc.?

4. In the interests of transparency will Center Maryland insert a disclaimer informing readers that KO PR represents clients with an interest in a story it is reporting?

Libit has not responded to my queries.

Like Pagnucco, I regard Center Maryland as an online appendage of KO Public Relations not a news site.

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