Loose Lips

Loose Lips Daily: Graham in The Hot Seat Edition

A deliberative roundup of one city's local politics. Send your tips, releases, stories, events, etc. to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com. And get LL Daily sent straight to your inbox every morning!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • Do You Know These People?
  • It's Official: HTJ Out as Chairman of Economic Development Committee
  • So Long, Sulaimon
  • Did Jim Graham Break City Rules By Not Reporting Ted Loza?
  • Good morning sweet readers! It's Thursday, which means  Washington City Paper's army of unpaid interns have been up all night working the printing press. This week's edition is all about food. Yum. Be sure and check out the paper's list of the 44 most powerful restaurants in the District. For his column this week, LL says goodbye to ol' Sulaimon Brown. LL thinks the apex of Brown's popularity was Monday, when he stared down a hostile D.C. Council behind designer sunglasses. Wishful thinking? News time:

    Jim Graham, It's Your Turn In the Hot Seat: Come now, let's turn our focus towards Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, who has a lively tale in on the front of today's Post about how the FBI tried to catch him ridin' dirty. "D.C. Council member Jim Graham sat in his office, an envelope stuffed with $2,600 in his hands. He had just been given the cash by a trusted aide, who said it came from a businessman. After a minute or so, Graham said, he shut the flap, secured it with tape, and initialed and dated the envelope. As he handed it back on that July afternoon in 2009, Graham (D-Ward 1) told his chief of staff, Ted G. Loza, to return it immediately." The money was from the FBI by way of Abdul Kamus, who was trying to help a group of Ethiopian cabbies get a corner on the taxi market. Kamus had been popped by the feds and agreed to work undercover. Graham says the FBI also bugged his phone and had an undercover agent offer to fly him to Miami to talk about business opportunities in Ward 1. But it appears Graham was on to the feds for some time. "At his 63rd birthday party in 2008, Graham said, he accepted a colorful portrait of himself as a gift from the Ethiopian community. He said he later learned that the FBI had paid for it. Tempted to report the painting on disclosure statements as an 'unsolicited gift' from the FBI, Graham said he thought better of it. 'I was advised not to antagonize them further,” said Graham, who keeps the portrait in a closet.'" LL asked yesterday if Graham broke city rules by not reporting Loza, which Graham says he now wishes he had done. (Graham didn't call LL back, though he did seem to return calls from 15th and L streets NW.) The Post has legal experts saying Graham did not appear to be in trouble for breaking council rules, but the legal eagles LL heard from said otherwise. At a minimum, it seems to LL, there ought to be at least some kind of inquiry from some kind District government employee into Graham's conduct. Also, the Post editorial board weighs in, asking what it says about Graham's judgment that he didn't report Loza and kept him on staff. "Considering the way things are going at the John A. Wilson Building — with an administration under the cloud of allegations from former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown and council member Harry Thomas accused of taking hundreds of thousands of public dollars for personal use — maybe we should be happy that Mr. Graham was honest enough not to keep that envelope. But that strikes us as a pretty low standard." One last question: why did it take evidence at Loza's sentencing trial for Graham to come clean on the attempted payoff? Loza was arrested more than a year and a half ago.

    AFTER THE JUMP: HTJ off econ dev; Gray rebuts Sulaimon; Alexander Shouts Down Crime...

    HTJ Is Off Econ Dev and On Fox: As widely expected, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.'s time as head of the economic development committee has come to an end. Thomas, who the attorney general is suing for taking public money to buy himself an Audi, says it's just a temporary break while he sorts out his legal issues. Thomas went on Fox 5 yesterday to give a detailed and vigorous defense of the specific allegations made against him by the attorney general—oops, nevermind, Thomas went on TV to duck questions, and tell everyone that he's entitled to due process, and his lawyer will be providing answers to all our questions some time in the future. The Times checks in with some corporate donors, who are trying to figure out just what they gave money to when they donated to Thomas' non-profit, Team Thomas. Also, it appears from Thomas' interview on Fox that he wanted Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown to put economic development under the control of the entire council, rather than give it to another councilmember. That's exactly what Brown did for now. He says he'll decide where to go after the summer recess. Meanwhile, newly elected Councilmember Vincent Orange wasted no time sending out a news release declaring that he would be a perfect pick to run Thomas' old committee. Orange's request reminds LL of a song.

    I Feel Bad: Mayor Vince Gray gave WAMU's Patrick Madden a little piece of his mind yesterday at a news conference after being asked about the recent string of scandals. Madden reports: 'You ask me about how I feel about it, of course I don't feel good about it, Patrick. Why would I feel good about it?' [Gray] says. 'And I feel less good about that there doesn't seem to be any balance. Are you reporting about some of the good things we are doing?' The mayor went around room, asking that question to other reporters. He then shut down the press conference as his staff erupted in applause." Ahh, the old, why don't you reporters ever report good news complaint. Gray should have a chat with LL's mom, who feels the same way. Gray also reacted a little bit more yesterday to Monday's Sulaimon circus, saying Brown's comportment alone is enough to not take his accusations seriously. And it's always bad when the mayor has to declare himself ethical.

    Yvette Alexander, Crime Shamer: Do not miss this video of Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander going OFF on a dude who tried to steal another dude's Kindle at Freedom Plaza. "You should be ashamed of yourself. People earn their stuff and you steal! You should be ashamed." (Note Kwame Brown hanging out in the vicinity, too, though he didn't scream at anyone.)

    How Legislation is Made: Nice timely news nugget from D.C. Watch's Dorothy Brizill:  Kwame Brown promised ethics reform when he was elected council chairman. Brown asked Georgetown University for help. A G-town prof asked grad students to write some memos as part of a graded class project about ethics reform. Those memos were given to Brown's office. Brown introduces ethics bill.

    In Other News: Councilmember Michael A. Brown says he's too busy to serve on the Metro board he doesn't go to that often. Housing prices in D.C., explained by LDP. Gray and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton ask House Republicans to be nice.
    Council sked: Finance at 9 a.m.; Health at 1 p.m.
    Gray sked: Courtesy visit with the ambassador from Liechtenstein.

    • Detail Oriented

      LL didn't include this from the Post story on Graham:

      "Legal experts said Graham did not appear to break the law in failing to alert authorities to the attempted cash payment."

    • Bill121

      WP story regarding Councilmember Graham is not exactly clear. However, Title 18 USC 4 requires more than just failure to report federal felonry crimes that you knew had been committed. It appears that active concealment is a required element of this offense. See excerpts below.

      Essential element of offense of misprision of felony is concealment and mere failure to report felony is not sufficient to constitute violation under 18 USCS § 4. United States v Johnson (1977, CA5 Tex) 546 F2d 1225.

      Some affirmative act toward concealment of felony was necessary; mere silence after knowledge of commission of crime was not sufficient. United States v Farrar (1930, DC Mass) 38 F2d 515, affd (1930) 281 US 624, 74 L Ed 1078, 50 S Ct 425, 68 ALR 892.

      18 USCS § 4 requires that there be some affirmative act to conceal felony from authorities. People v Vincent (1980) 94 Mich App 626, 288 NW2d 670.

      Conviction for violation of 18 USCS § 4 requires proof of affirmative act of concealment in addition to failure to disclose. People v West (1980) 408 Mich 332, 291 NW2d 48.

      Since bribery is considered a felony in the instant matter (Graham's former chief of staff), Councilmember Graham was aware of the bribe and concealed the matter from the appropriate law enforcement authorities, and should face sanctions by the DC Bar.

    • Southeast Ken

      No comment on Miss Graham. Time will tell on her one day in a scandal with some young Latino/Salvadoran men.

    • tony

      I want all those silly blacks who called for Thomas Harry demise to watch how white folks stand up and defend their own...Just sit back and watch how they provide explanations after explanation as to why Graham's conduct was not illegal. They are not going to rush to judgment.They are not going to call for his dismissal. And, by the way is Congressman Weiner still in office? The last poll I seen indicated concerning Congressman Weiner was that majority of his supporters wanted him to stay in office.

      WHITE FOLKS CAN TEACH BLACK FOLKS A THING OR TWO ABOUT HOW TO GET POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC POWER AND HOW TO KEEP IT!!!

    • Skipper

      A complaint needs to be filed with the DC Bar. And Kwame needs to refer the matter to the Inspector General. Graham failed to follow DC personnel regulations when it comes to reporting attempts at bribery. If a front-line employee had done what he did, they'd risk being fired.

    • michaeliceman

      @tony. It is not a black or white issue to me! But for the sake of argument, let's take a closer look at the allegations. JG (the White guy) failed to report a bribe offered through his chief of staff from some rich businessmen. The bribe was to inlfuence legislation and therefore make them more money.

      Ok. Now HTJ (the Black guy), directed city money to be transferred for his personal use - to take trips and buy a sweet ride. This money had been earmarked to benefit lower income Black youth. So in a nutshell, he stole money that was supposed to help poor Black kids.

      I can only speak for this Black man, but what HTJ is alleged to have done is ten time worse to me. I expect JG to screw Black folks. He has been doing it for years. But for HTJ to steal money from his own people - kids - turns my stomach a different way.

      Innocent until proven guilty. But if he did it, he does not deserve any defending.

    • whatamess

      Having read some comments in WaPo and numerous blogs, no matter who is accused of any wrongdoing in DC, for many it always comes down to the trite conclusion that Barry is responsible for all things corrupt. Not to excuse his (Barry) indiscretions, but people refuse to acknowledge that similarly accused individuals act of their own free will. Jim Graham can be a nasty, arrogant prima donna (one who I recall had allegedly used some DC FEMS to staff one of his parties ) and perhaps karma is finally biting him in the ass.

    • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

      I've been away for a while and DC seem to have fallen about with corruption. My oh my, sweet Daddy Grace is in shock!

    • Truth Hurts

      @ Tony: Your black/white claim is flatly untrue. This white guy has harshly condemned Graham many times, on this site and elsewhere. This white guy (as well as many white house and senate dems) have said Weiner should resign because he can't be effective any longer.

      I agree with michaeliceman's (black man)comment #5. And for the record, I urge Kwame Brown (black man) to spearhead sanctions against Jim Graham (white man).

      Stop with all these black/white claims. All blacks don't share your views and all whites don't defend bad white politicians.

    • Southeast Ken

      I agree whatamess.

    • Truth Hurts

      @ LL: Your legal experts are better than WaPo's. The word "shall" report means MUST report, not should report. So Graham was required to promptly inform the IG and appropriate law enforcement agencies (eg, FBI).

      And Graham's a lawyer, he knows the legal meaning of "shall".

    • Typical DC BS

      Ted Loza either must have had some good dirt on JG or kept JG satisfied in some other way to keep his job after trying to pass along a bribe!

    • Southeast Ken

      Tony, I am no fan on Miss Graham, but I have to agree with Michaeliceman. The allegations against Ward 5 DC Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. are much serious than Ward 1 DC Councilmember Jim Graham. According to the Washington Post, the F.B.I. investigated Miss Graham and they didn't find anything on him.

      In reference to white New York (D) Congressman Anthony Weiner, several white Democrats in Congress has called for his resignation. Sure, there are people in district living in Queens and Brooklyn that don't want him to resign, but New York City is very liberal like DC and anything goes. After the Congressman is alleged to sent a photo of his penis to a woman, his days in Congress are numbered.

    • tony

      When was Harry Thomas found guilty or liable for the charges that the District Attorney Office leveled against him?. In fact, he has not even had a trial of any sort. Yet, he has been condemn based on mere allegations...Man, if you are telling me, that's this how black people should to treat their own leaders than we are in big trouble.

      I guess all the other black councilmembers who have been accused of some form of corruption should just pack their bags and head for the door. Let just turn this city over to other people, who we apparently believe are more qualified, trustworthy, caring and honest....ARE U FUCKING KIDDING ME!!

      FINALLY, WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME IN THIS CITY DID A WHITE POLITICIAN GET INDICTED OR FORCE FROM OFFICE BECAUSE OF CORRUPTION ALLEGATION----NEVER! SHOULD I ASSUME THAT ITS BECAUSE THEY ARE MORE ETHICAL OR IS SOMETHING ELSE MORE SINISTER GOING ON!

    • Detail Oriented

      Either there are a lot of mind readers in the comments section or people who lack reading comprehension skills.

      Tell me, who knows with certainty that Graham considered the money a bribe? Perhaps it was a campaign contribution. Or a gift.

      Bottom line: he rejected it.

      2nd bottom line: if he didn't consider it an attempted bribe, there was nothing to report.

      Am attempted campaign contribution, even if it is over the legal limit, is not a crime. In particular, if it is rejected.

    • Skipper

      @Tony: That's a great idea! If the Council was free of Kwame, Barry, Thomas, Alexander, Michael Brown and Jim Graham, it would be a far better place!

    • TheAngryVoter

      This has to be a movie lol

      -TheLaughingVoter

    • michaeliceman

      @ Tony. Call me stupid or naive, but I hold my Black politcians to a higher standard. I mean if you think or know that something more sinister is going on, then the current Black politicians would have to be stupid not to realize it also. So why put themselves out there like that? If you think that folks are coming after just the Black politicians, why are the current guys doing dumb shyte? Look, you heard rumblings about past Black CM's like Cropp, Jarvis, Chavious and the rest, but you NEVER saw any bombshell allegations. Whatever they were doing, they were smart about it. KB, HTJ and these new cats are DUMB!!! Plain and simple.

    • Truth Hurts

      @ SE Ken: I posted a comment similar to your #13 at 2:55pm. It's in moderation limbo.

    • Southeast Ken

      @michaeliceman, I agree. Tony is cool, but sometimes, we have different opinions. That is what's great about living in the United States is being able to express oneself.

    • tony

      @michaeliceman, you said it, you BELIEVE black pols should be held to higher standards. And why? Why should black pols and people be held to higher standards. Why should black pols and black people be treated differently. Why should they be subjected to harder or greater examination than their white counterparts.

      Hell, taking your argument, blacks should be twice as qualified for the same positions as whites. Blacks should have to work harder to get equal pay to their white counterpart. Blacks should be treated differently when it comes to allegations of wrongdoing. THIS IS COMPLETE NON-SENSE!!

      SORRY, BUT I CANNOT AND WILL NOT SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PLANTATION MENTALITY!!!!

    • Southeast Resident

      @tony, Congressman Wiener should not resign unless Senator Vitter and Congressman Rangel resign too. As with those two, the voters decide the politicians fate unless they committed a felony that sends them to jail. Plus there have been more black local politicians in this town then white ones in the Mayors seat and in Council. Therefore, your comment regarding one having favor over the other just by the numbers doesn't make sense. As a DC taxpayer you should be concerned about corruption and desiring justice no matter the color of a persons skin. I hope it isn't true, but I have a problem with Thomas or any other politician getting a high priced SUV on my tax dime when as a taxpayer I am already paying them enough money to buy their own!

    • Wendy Washington

      "Thomas went on TV to duck questions, and tell everyone that he's entitled to due process, and his lawyer will be providing answers to all our questions some time in the future."

      Yeah, sure, those answers will come at the same time as the documents Harry promised us back in December.

      @tony -- try as you might, I see no viable defense for Harry. You are correct in one respect -- in a court of law one is innocent until proven guilty. The court of public opinion, however, is a different ballgame.

      If you re-read the WaPo article, they followed the money. Those details alone speak for themselves. HTJ was not even willing to cough up some of his own funds for the $1074 shortfall. You can be certain more evidence exists that was not shared for public consumption. I want to be in the spectator section of the courtroom. I agree with michaeliceman and Southeast Ken, both Kwame and Harry are stupid. To be more precise, idiotic morons. They deserve no support and that cannot be considered "plantation mentality".

      I reside in Ward 5, Harry has done a piss poor job of representing his constituents. Now, to find out that he has misappropriated (stolen) funds earmarked to help the youth of Ward 5 makes him lower than scum.

    • itsjustamess

      @Tony - No, blacks should not feel a need to be twice anything but I am so tired of our black pols pissing on their own shoes. Every black pol on the city council accused of misappropriation of some kind, stole from their own. They sit on the dais knowing full well, better than you or I the dirt the other white councilmembers are playing in and they just hee-haw along just so they can buy slick cars and trucks, trips, and cheap bling then eat, drink, and be merry with their stolen nickels and dimes. I don't care if the whites stab me in the back with a machete, when a black stabs me with a kitchen knife, it cuts deeper and takes longer to heal. Having said that, I don't like or will not tolerate corruption from anyone - black, white, green, or onion. Jim Graham ought to go jail immediately and leave the darn door open and the light on for the rest.

    • Southeast Resident

      Why didn't Yvette make a citizen's arrest? She could have tackled and sat on the perp until Cathy Lanier got there!

      It is about time that Michael Brown has decided to step down as an alternate on the Metro Board. He was totally disinterested and useless in doing the job. Former Chairman Gray and current Chairman Brown should have replaced him long ago. All he is interested in doing at year end is running for re-election. He may not have much luck without a record of accomplishment to stand on. It will be particularly tough running with the last name of "Brown."

    • tony

      @Southeast Resident, I know that you dislike Harry and many other politicians in this city for various reasons
      and I respect that. But, I think that you would be doing yourself a complete disservice in believing that the race factor is unimportant when comes to dissecting whats going on in this city.

      I clearly understand that black politicians in this city have in some respect failed to provide the sort of representation that could be beneficial to the black community. And as much as I find the conduct of some black politicians to be questionable and distasteful, I can never lose sight of the fact, that just a few years ago, when there was no black representation in this city that life for black people was far more difficult and deplorable.

      I honestly believe that only through continue black representation, can blacks maintain some governance over the political, social, and economic entities of this city.

    • Southeast Ken

      @Southeast Resident; my Ward 7 Councilmember was too busy eating pig's feet to make an arrest.

      Kenneth
      Hillcrest
      Ward 7 DC Resident

    • Drez

      The FBI seems to have invested a lot of resources into busting Graham. More than any local pol i know of in this town save Barry.
      Loza was Grahams Ms Moore. But Graham didn't take that pipe. Should Barry have turned Ms Moore in to the FBI for offering?
      Just a rhetorical question.

    • Southeast Ken
    • michaeliceman

      @Tony: You use a lot of “shoulds” in your statements. Believe it or not, I agree with most of them. Should Black pols be subject to more scrutiny than their White colleagues? Of course not!!!! I think we are 100% in agreement on that. But you and I both know that is not how it is!!! Right or wrong, they are subject to more scrutiny. You know it and I know it. And if you and I know it, how come HTJ and KB missed the memo? In the real world, they SHOULD know that these folks are going to be looking at them closely. Why be stupid and open themselves up like that? That’s all I am saying. Oh and I do believe that JG should get hammered and JE’s dealings should be brought to light.

      I agree that HTJ has not been found guilty of a doggone thing in court. But he and his team fumbled this whole thing from the beginning in the court of public opinion, which is the most important one for elected officials. We had to read for months about how he was not providing the requested info to the AG’s office. Ok, he wants to stonewall them, fine! That in itself is not good headline strategy. But by not producing anything, he gave the AG a license to dig deeper. Because if you remember, the current allegations are different than what was originally alleged. Because he did not provide anything, the AG was forced to find it own info (or make it up). He allowed the AG to shape the story. He tried to be cute and it backfired. But if he did do what is alleged, than he deserves everything he gets.

    • tony

      @michaeliceman, I clearly understand what you are saying and you make valid points. I clearly understand that black pols hands are not clean and that they need to be called to the carpet. However, my concern as a native Washingtonian, is that black leaders are under attack in this city.

      I believe that there's a concerted effort by the powers to be to systematically undermine, weaken and stigmatize black leaders as corrupt, lazy, and unfit for public office. If this perception takes hold within the black community than black folks will not support black candidates for public office.

      Without black representation, the black community will suffer greatly. If anyone believe that white politicians provide equitable representation than they are crazy. Every community in this city that have seen the worst form of gentrification are black communities which now have white councilmembers---Columbia Heights and H.st Corridor N.E.

      And, the list goes on as to how black folks have suffered without proper representation. The history of this city speaks for itself. Prior, to the Barry's era, blacks receive little or none of the city contracts. They were not given cushy government jobs. They were not hired into the top brass of the government. They were not given business loans or any other type of government assistance or benefits. They were not appointed to key boards and commisssions. They were treated like second class citizens. And, only through greater black representation was the black community able to become the political, social and economic force it is today.

      However, there are those who are working day and night to dismantle the black leadership in this city and strip black folks of the power and control they have earned.

      Yes, there's mismanagement of resources in this city. Yes, there's corruption in this city. But there's corruption and mismanagement in every government on earth. So, lets not play holy than thou. Again, as bad as some of these councilmembers are, I rather have them controlling my affairs than a David Catania or a Jim Graham.

    • drez

      Psst... Tony.
      The 1970's called. They want you to know it's 2010 and a lot of shit has changed in the last 40 (or 50) years.

    • Skipper

      @Tony: So you're saying it was the secret white people implementing The Plan that made Thomas take the $300k (allegedly) and spend it on himself? And they also made Kwame demand the fully loaded Navigator. And made Barry give taxpayer money to his girlfriend. And made Barry and Michael Brown fail to pay their taxes. And made Graham have shady dealings with taxi companies. And made Alexander have shady dealings with HR Crawford.

    • tony

      Yes, drez, a lot has change but a lot remains the same, the least of which is how white folks still view certain black pols...I wonder why some citizens in ward 6 refuse to join their friends over in Ward 7. I wonder why Michelle Rhee was loved by whites but despised by blacks. I wonder why this city remains one of the most segregated city in America in 2011. Yes, indeed, a lot has change but too much remain the same. Skipper, no one make black pols do anything. My concern is that the reaction from whites when black pols engage in questionable conduct versus their white counterparts. Mr. Graham has maintained from day one that he was never the focus of the F.B.I. investigation, and now he admits that the F.B.I. had tried to entrapped him for years...Ted Loza brought him a envelope stuff with cash from the F.B.I. which he refused because he knew the source and not because he was honorable. So, where are the vicious emails from the public calling for his head. Where are the calls demanding that his colleagues punish him. Where is the 24 hours news coverage mocking him. And, remember these allegations were known during his re-election bid and he still was overwhelming elected by his people.

      Yes, my friend, while so much has change, so much has not and will not!!!!

    • Southeast Ken

      @Tony; I agree, DC is a very segregated city and during the mayoral race last year, racism was at it's best.

    ...