Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Graul Files raise many questions;

Who to believe? Mark Graul or Mark Graul?

Sorry, Charlie, but I am not giving up the Mark Graul chase until the truth comes out. It could be a long time, at the rate we're going, although we get one tiny grain at a time.

Charlie (Sykes, not Tuna) seems to think a statement from Jennifer Calvert closes the case, so I should quit hounding this poor, innocent guy and take up stamp collecting. Here is the careful statement from Calvert, a lobbyist in Abramoff's firm at the time in question:
When I worked at Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds in 2000, it was standard procedure at the firm to make requests to Jack Abramoff”s assistant in order to host guests before actually extending an invitation to anyone. Jack Abramoff had no influence at all over whom I would invite; his sign off was merely an assurance that there were tickets available to a particular event. Even after I was given permission to invite someone, my plans often would change and I would not even extend the invitation. Also, many times the person I invited was unable to attend. I certainly do not have any involvement with the illegal acts of Jack Abramoff, and have not been questioned in the wrongdoing surrounding him or his associates. In fact, from what I’ve read, the offenses at the heart of the Abramoff investigation occurred when he was at the Greenberg Traurig firm – well after I ever worked with him at Preston Gates.
A few things she didn't say:

-- That Graul didn't ask for NBA all-star game tickets, as the e-mail says he did.

-- That Graul never asked for or accepted any tickets, for himself or anyone else.

-- That Graul didn't go to the Bucks game with free tickets to Abramoff's skybox. (He has a hard time remembering, but most days he says he went.)

-- Why, on the World Wrestling event, there is a date of the tickets being sent to Green's office.

-- Why she was so anxious to do favors for Mark Green's office.

-- That the e-mails were not authentic.

Let's move on now to the post from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, which Charlie also seems to think exonerates Graul:

As you probably know, we've spent a bit of ink over the last few months knocking around Mark Graul. He's the campaign manager for Rep. Mark Green (R) who's now running for Governor of Wisconsin. And Graul's name popped up in a series of Team Abramoff emails getting tickets for various events in DC in 2000 and 2001 at Jack Abramoff's skyboxes.

In most cases the emails were to or from Jennifer Calvert, another lobbyist at Abramoff's then-firm, Preston Gates who worked with Abramoff on Native American issues. (She's now at another shop called Washington Strategies.)

There've been a series of back and forths in posts here and in article in the Wisconsin press about this. But today I finally got a chance to chat with Mark.

So which of the events did he go to and how did it all shake out?

"I went to the one Bucks game with Jennifer Calvert," said Graul. "I didn't go to the other events. I wasn't even in DC. Jennifer said it was a perfunctory matter. She may not have even asked me. And I certainly wasn't available to go."

That's pretty much what Graul told the Journal-Sentinel last week.

Now, we said this in our initial posts. But let me take this opportunity to restate some key points. What we know about Mark Graul, Jennifer Calvert and all this ticket business is all bounded within the four walls of the half dozen emails we published here back in October.

In one of the emails Calvert tells Jack Abramoff's executive assistant, Susan Ralston, that she "got a request from Mark Graul" for tickets to the NBA all star game. Another email has a docket of who was given tickets for a professional wrestling event. Graul's name shows up for two. The other four emails are each one permutation or another of Calvert writing to Abramoff or Ralston and asking (this is a paraphrase, of course), 'Hey, can I get this or that number of tickets for Mark Graul?'

Now, here's the key point. Do I know whether Calvert picked up the tickets from Abramoff's office? No. Do I know whether she actually gave them to Graul? No. If Graul got them, do I know he went to the event? No idea.

If Graul says he only went to one of the events, there's nothing in the emails to prove otherwise. And I take him at his word.

I'm not trying to be overly cute about this. I'm just trying to be precise. The emails are there to read. You're in as good a position to interpret them as I am.

-- Josh Marshall
OK, so there is no proof Graul got or used the tickets. So did Graul get the tickets for someone else in the office? Did some other Green staffer use them? Did Green himself?

Does that sound far-fetched? Consider that Graul himself, in an unguarded moment, told Spivak and Bice:
But Graul said this week that he's never met Abramoff and never went to see Limp Bizkit - "I thought it was a medical condition"- though he did see the Milwaukee Bucks play the Wizards in D.C. three times.

Graul said he didn't know if tickets to any of those games came compliments of Abramoff's firm. As to why his name is on the e-mails, he speculated that he was the contact person to receive freebies and he knew an Abramoff associate.
Besides, in the nation's Capitol, this is all business as usual.

"From time to time, people would call and offer tickets," Graul said. "There were a handful of times we said yes."

Egads - some state lawmakers would break out in a cold sweat just hearing that talk.

"I believe it's illegal in Madison" to take freebies, Graul said. "It's legal in Washington."

Then there is the question of the e-mails.

Let's start with the Wisconsin State Journal story Wednesday morning that contradicts much of what Graul had told other reporters. To be helpful, I will highlight some things to pay attention to.
Denying reports of freebies. A top aide to Republican gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Mark Green, meanwhile, is denying reports his office received freebies from another Abramoff firm.

In October, Washington Monthly writer Joshua Micah Marshall posted e-mails on his political blog,, purporting to be internal e-mails from a former fellow lobbyist of Abramoff's.

In them, Jennifer Calvert asks for tickets to various Washington-area events for several congressional staffers, including Mark Graul, then Green's chief of staff and now his campaign manager.

Graul last week categorically denied ever asking for the tickets. He said "it's possible" he went to one Milwaukee Bucks game with Calvert and that she paid.Unlike Wisconsin state law, House rules permit lobbyists to provide members and staffers with items of value so long as the value does not exceed $50 per item, or $100 in one year.

"This is an Internet hoax, as far as I'm concerned,"
Graul said of the e-mails, whose authenticity the State Journal has so far been unable to confirm.

"I don't know if somebody was using my name to try to get tickets for friends. I have no clue. All I know for certain is, as it relates to me and to Congressman Green's office, we did not receive the tickets or even solicited such tickets from Mr. Abramoff. I've never met Mr. Abramoff. Mark (Green) has never met Mr. Abramoff. We don't know this guy from a hole in the ground."
So Graul, who said he used to be the contact person for tickets in Green's office, which sometimes said yes to freebies, now denies the office ever said yes to any tickets.

Who should we believe, Mark Graul or Mark Graul?

The emails were "an Internet hoax" in Wednesday morning's paper. But by the afternoon WisPolitics report, this was the story:
However, a series of e-mails of unknown origin show Graul asking and receiving other tickets from Calvert. Graul told reporters he “never asked her (Calvert) for a ticket,” and only went to a single Bucks game with a ticket from Calvert.
Graul insisted he does not doubt the authenticity of the e-mails reproduced on “There are two things to remember… none of us know the source of those e-mails. None of us here. None of us anywhere know the source of those e-mails. .. I don’t quibble with the authenticity of that,” Graul said. “When I originally saw them, I thought ... boy, this is just, you know, some liberal blogger taking shots at the front-runner for the governor’s race.”
Josh Marshall, who posted the e-mails, said in a post:
These emails were produced by the relevant parties pursuant to a lawful subpoena. They are most definitely authentic.
No one knows the origin of the e-mails?

Marshall said today in a e-mail that when he talked to Graul on Tuesday, Graul "freely conceded they were real."

Who to believe, Mark Graul or Mark Graul?


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