Instagram puts AG Doug Gansler at scene of underage drinking

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October 24, 2013


By: Maresa Strano

Annapolis, Maryland: On October 23, 2013, almost exactly one month after Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler launched his 2014 campaign for governor, The Baltimore Sun published a photograph featuring the attorney general standing in the midst of a raucous high school party. The photo was taken in June at a high school graduation celebration, co-hosted and attended by Gansler's son, and recently found its way into the public domain via Instagram.[1] It captures a scene containing evidence of underage alcohol consumption, with Gansler standing passively among the shirtless partygoers. In the accompanying written report, the Sun evokes a permissive attitude unbecoming of a top law enforcement official. It reminds readers of the second term AG's pronouncements about wanting to crack down on underage drinking, using the photo as a visual aid to reinforce the notion Gansler was neglecting his duties in not shutting down a party where, by his own acknowledgement, "For better or worse, the reality is some kids drink alcohol while they're there."[1] After the story broke, Gansler defended his lack of engagement as appropriate from a parental perspective, considering he and a group of other parents had established rules for the party in advance. Skirting a direct response to claims that his behavior was inappropriate from a law enforcement perspective, Gansler argued that it would have been outside his moral authority to stifle a relatively controlled demonstration of teenage debauchery, as depicted. One teenager who attended the Delaware beach house celebration that night told an interviewer from the Sun, "I don't remember much, but it was one of the best parties I've been to, hands down," simultaneously affirming Gansler's defense of his responsibilities as a parent within the situation and the critics' charges that Gansler actively ignored his responsibilities as an elected legal official.[2]

Before the Sun published the photo, Gansler's candidacy had already suffered a string of embarrassments, mostly courtesy of the Washington Post, which kicked off its Gansler-expose series in August when it revealed previous comments Gansler had made about the campaign of his opponent, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is the early frontrunner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. "I mean, right now, his campaign slogan is, ‘Vote for me, I want to be the first African American governor of Maryland,’" Gansler told some campaign volunteers, implying Brown was running on gimmick rather than substance.[3] It followed with a number of reports detailing Gansler's unorthodox and questionably-ethical handling of state-issued vehicles, including a piece about his ordering of state troopers to violate traffic laws.[4]

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