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Teen Drinking Party Busts Maryland Attorney General

In this Instagram photo, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (center, in white shirt holding cell phone) is seen at a summer party where underage drinking appears to be taking place.

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler meets with reporters Thursday to explain his actions during a summertime visit to a teenage house party.

Doug Gansler is Maryland's top law enforcement official. As the state's attorney general, he's spoken out against the perils of underage drinking.

So, naturally, the posting of an Instagram photo of Gansler in the middle of what appears to be a wild underage drinking party — the attorney general is surrounded by shirtless dancing teenagers and red plastic cups — is proving to be a big political problem.

Gansler explained to the Baltimore Sun, which published the photo in its Thursday edition, that he had stopped by the Delaware beach house party briefly to speak with his teenage son. He said he did not remember if he saw any of the attendees drinking, though partygoers later confirmed that many were.

"Assume for purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party," Gansler, who is running for governor in 2014, told the paper. "How is that relevant to me? ... The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people's children at beach week in another state? I say no."

At a press conference Thursday, Gansler said he "should have probably assumed there was drinking" going on at the party, but that he "wasn't there to determine if there was drinking."

The particular party took place last summer at a six-bedroom beach house where a group of recent private school graduates lived during a weeklong stay.

The Sun reported that the weeklong stay was organized by some of the graduates' parents, who laid down a set of ground rules preventing the teenagers from driving, taking girls behind closed bedroom doors and drinking hard alcohol. Two fathers were also put on chaperone duty each night.

An anonymous attendee told the Sun, "I don't remember much, but it was one of the best parties I've been to, hands down."

The flap comes on the heels of a run of bad press for the attorney general. Earlier this month, the The Washington Post reported that Gansler regularly ordered the state troopers who drive him around to turn on the lights and sirens, run red lights, speed and use the shoulder to bypass traffic. Gansler even took the wheel himself on one occasion, turning the sirens on and running red lights, the Post said.

Gansler on Wednesday paid a $400 speeding ticket -- issued to his state-owned vehicle after it was spotted by a traffic camera -- that was overdue by 16 months. He said that he was not operating the vehicle at the time, even though a state trooper says otherwise.

A Democratic gubernatorial primary poll released last week shows Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown leading the Democratic primary field with the support of 41 percent of likely voters. Gansler was in second with 21 percent.

Brown has been endorsed by some of the most prominent Democratic figures in Maryland politics, including outgoing Gov. Martin O'Malley, Sen. Barabara Mikulski and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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