Mark Graul's latest claim: I was framed
Mark Graul, campaign manager and former chief of staff to Rep. Mark Green, has changed his story repeatedly when he has been asked about a series of e-mails showing he was on the list for free tickets to events in felonious lobbyist Jack Abramoff's skybox.
In today's story in the Green Bay Press Gazette, he tries a new one: The e-mails are fake.
Let's look at that story. My comments are in italics.
Taken out to a ballgameUPDATE: Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, who posted the e-mails to begin with, reacts strongly to Graul's claim.
Meanwhile, the former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Hobart, said Abramoff's plea bargain has no bearing on his past association with a former colleague of Abramoff.
Mark Graul, who is now campaign manager for Green's gubernatorial bid, acknowledges attending a Milwaukee Bucks-Washington Wizards basketball game as a guest of lobbyist Jennifer Calvert in 2000.
Congressional staffers are allowed to accept complimentary tickets to sporting events and shows as long as the face value of the ticket is less than $50. [True, except that Graul is on the list for two skybox tickets. Try getting even one skybox ticket to the Bradley Center for less than $50.]
The Wisconsin Democratic Party, citing purported e-mails between Calvert and Abramoff posted by an Internet blogger, claims Graul also obtained free tickets to other events in Washington with Abramoff's OK.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Joe Wineke sent Green a letter with copies of the e-mails, asking the congressman to find out what Graul was expected to do in return.
However, Graul denied having attended the other events, saying he was in Wisconsin on the days they occurred.
"I can assure you that I didn't go to them," said Graul. [Did he get the tickets for someone else? Another staffer? The Congressman?]
Graul said there's no evidence the alleged e-mails are authentic and that he never met Abramoff. [The question is not whether he ever met Abramoff. It is why members of Abramoff's staff wanted to do favors for Graul. There is "no evidence the alleged e-mails are authentic"? There is no evidence they're not. And you would have to ask Graul why he thinks someone would single him out for this treatment. Why would anyone forge documents to make Graul look bad? Did anyone ask Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, which posted the documents in question, whether they are authentic? Marshall is not some partisan young blogger; he's a respected writer who's regularly published in some of the nation's largest newspapers.]
Calvert's relationship with Abramoff as a co-worker ended several years ago, when she left Preston Gates & Ellis to help establish the government affairs business at Washington Strategies, a smaller lobbying firm across the Potomac River from Washington in Rosslyn, Va.
Graul said Thursday that he considered his attendance at the game at the MCI Center in downtown Washington with Calvert primarily a social event. He did not recall what business topics were discussed. [Of course it was a "social event." Lobbyists don't invite you to a basketball game and demand your vote at halftime. They schmooze you, do you favors, and establish a relationship and access that will be useful in the future. That's how the game is played.]
The two became acquainted when one of Calvert's clients was an association that represented the personal watercraft industry, said Graul.
Calvert's firm said Thursday she was out of town for the week.
Calvert's biography posted on the Washington Strategies Web site says, "Her lobbying expertise focuses on the issue areas of appropriations, natural resources, transportation, education and Native American issues." The firm's site also states, "She is active in raising money for Republican members of Congress and serves as a political consultant to various members of the House and Senate.'