Erlich letters add fuel to copter flap

Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc.'s messy fight with Jesse Jackson over the company's local marketing agreements with broadcaster Eddie Edwards was replayed on the front pages of the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post Wednesday.

The papers tied letters written by incoming Maryland Gov. Robert Erlich on behalf of Sinclair to recent revelations that a Sinclair-linked firm offered him discounted helicopter travel during the gubernatorial campaign (B&C, Nov. 18).

Erlich's letter was written in 2001 while he was a U.S. congressman representing Balitimore county, where Sinclair is based, and the papers questioned whether the travel assistance was a quid pro quo for his inquiry into the company's three-year battle with Jackson.

Erlich was frustrated that the Clinton-led Federal Communications Commission failed to resolve Jackson's bid to block Sinclair's purchase of 14 TV stations from Sullivan Broadcasting Co.

In a letter, Erlich urged the FCC to expedite the review when leadership of the commission switched to Republican Michael Powell.

The newspapers also played up the FCC's admonishment of Erlich for failing to send a copy of his letter to Jackson's attorneys, as agency rules required.

Erlich's staff countered that he was simply helping a local constituent and was not taking sides in the dispute.