Sunday, January 29, 2006

Graul caught in his own web

Finally, the Journal Sentinel has performed an act of journalism attempting to get to the bottom of Mark Graul's acceptance of freebie tickets from indicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. At issue is whether or not Graul, campaign manager for Mark Green gubernatorial campaign and longtime Green aide, improperly accepted free tickets in Abramoff's luxury suite to a Washington Wizards basketball game.

As the story recounts in excruciating detail, Graul's story changes every time he is asked about it:

  • "Graul said last week that he probably attended" the game
  • "Interviewed Monday, Graul was asked about the game ... 'The impression I had was the seat was less than $50 (and) the face value of the ticket put us in compliance with the gift rule"
  • "By Tuesday, he was no longer sure he went to the game"

Graul's story also changes when it comes to the issue of the Abramoff office emails that fingered him as requesting numerous freebie tickets: "...details emerge in a series of emails - which Graul once dismissed as a 'hoax' but now concedes are 'legitimate'".

There has been much chatter this week about the alleged ineptitude of Team Doyle's "spin" on issues of ethics. But that truly pales in comparison to Graul's ineptitude, in which he has dodged, weaved, changed his story, hemmed, hawed and hedged for months, keeping the story alive with a trail of conflicting statements and ridiculous assertions.

Predictably, the Graul apologists are already on the scene, led by Jessica McBucher, whose characteristically tendentious post focuses on the use of the word "apparently", as in Graul "apparently took an improper gift from a lobbyist", but that no evidence is presented that taking the freebie tickets actually violated House rules.

Earth to Jessica: the record has established how much the ticket cost. The record has established the allowable value of freebies. The Graul/Ambramoff freebie exceeded the allowable value. Case closed. The only reason the word "apparently" finds its way into the story is because Graul himself continues to play fast and loose with whether or not he actually went to the game.

This all could have been easily avoided if Graul had just 'fessed up when this issue first arose. It was a long time ago, and real voters probably wouldn't have cared that much. The reason it's become a current issue has more to do with Graul's ongoing lack of candor than with what he did on that fateful night back in 2000.