Loose Lips

Jim Graham Didn’t Reject Bribe, He Rejected Goodwill

Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham is mad. Washington Post reporters have recently taken to using the word "bribe" when describing $2,600 in cash Graham's former chief of staff tried to give Graham on behalf of an undercover FBI agent.

Graham says in a WaPo op-ed that it was nothing of the sort, and refers us to the legal definition of "bribe," which is “the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties.”

Graham says he never thought the money being thrown his way in the summer of 2009 on behalf of a businessman known as "Pete" (the FBI undercover agent) had anything to do with Graham's official duties. Therefore, he wasn't offered a bribe. "It never entered my mind that I would do or had done anything on behalf of the person who provided the funds," Graham writes.

Think about that line for a second. Graham is essentially saying that he believed some businessman was trying to give him $2,600 out of the kindness of his heart.

That's hard to believe, especially since court records show that Pete was introduced to Graham by way of Abdul Kamus, an Ethiopian cab driver advocate who was pushing Graham to introduce a taxi-medallion bill (a bill Graham introduced but later withdrew after his chief of staff, Ted Loza, was arrested). Pete, who told Loza back in the summer of 2008 that he was looking to get a piece of the District's taxi market, gave the money to Kamus, who gave it to Loza to give to Graham.

Court records show that Graham met with Kamus and Pete on at least two occasions before the $2,600 gift was attempted.  Those records show that Kamus also regularly met with Graham to discuss taxi-related legislation. In other words, the attempted gift came to Graham by way of a man he knew was interested in shaping the city's policy towards taxicabs. (Graham was then head of the committee that oversaw taxi-related issues.)

It would be nice to know what Graham and Pete specifically talked about at their meetings, but Graham has so far refused to answer LL's questions regarding this whole affair. But maybe Pete used the same line on Graham as he did during his first meeting with Loza (a meeting that ended with Loza accepting $4,000 for a trip to Ethiopia). "It's always good to spread a little goodwill when you're investing in a city," said Pete, according to a secretly recorded video.

Spreading goodwill, of course, is not technically the same thing as a bribe. When LL was a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea, a country where bribes were necessary just to get around the country, no one ever used the word "bribe." Instead, the favorite euphemism was giving a "little gift."

Is there really a difference between spreading goodwill through little gifts and a "bribe?" Legally, sure. And Graham has a point that the play-it-straight-Post ought to be more careful in its word choice. But semantics aside, are we supposed to believe that Graham, who clerked for a Supreme Court justice, is so dense that he wouldn't understand what Pete's possible ulterior motives were?

Graham needs you to believe that fiction so that he can explain away his failure to report the attempted gift to authorities—a failure that might not technically be illegal, but sure is disappointing. "In my mind, it seemed as if there had been some misunderstanding by the individual who provided the money — perhaps a lack of knowledge about protocol and how official and unofficial business is conducted," Graham writes. "Nothing that occurred that day appeared to me to be an effort to influence me or any legislation."

Again, that's another tough line to swallow. Earlier this year, Graham said he felt like the envelop full of cash was "radioactive." And Loza, when he returned the money shortly after Graham rejected it, call the attempted gift "illegal." But now the gift was just "some misunderstanding?"

You would have to give LL an awfully big "little gift" to get him to believe that one.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Skipper

    And cue the call from the Grahamstander to LL's editors in 5...4...3...2...

  • NE John

    And it's gonna be a long long time till touch down brings me round again to find I'm not the man they though I was at home oh no no no

  • Truth Hurts

    The FBI certainly intended it as a bribe. That's why they gave the money to Kamus, instructed him to give it to Loza to pass along to Graham, and wired Kamus to record the whole thing. And Graham knew it was intended as a bribe, but because he was suspicious the FBI was trying to set him up, he returned the money. The only reason he didn't report the bribery attempt is because he wasn't certain it'd been planted by the FBI and wanted to retain Kamus' good will and influence among cabbies.

    Graham can lie to himself, and he can play the innocent victim in public, but the facts and common sense lead to only one credible conclusion. The FBI attempted to bribe Graham, he knew accepting the money would be illegal and could lead to indictment, yet he nevertheless failed to report it as ethics rules required.

  • DJ Ren

    This whole thing is insane. OF COURSE it was intended as a bribe. No clue what Jim is trying to prove with this op-ed, but only a fool would believe him...

    @TH, exactly.

  • meanteeth

    What else would it be, besides a bribe?! Does he really think we're that stupid?

  • Disgusted DC

    Our founders would be disgusted. For shame! The DC Council is an embarrassment. Jim Graham, Kwame Brown, Marion Barry, and Harry Thomas, Jr. -- you're all a bunch of crooks and should be ashamed!!

  • http://sinclairskinner.com sinclair skinner

    call it whatever you want, i must apologize to the citizens of the district of columbia for my association and participating in activities that could easily and rightfully be called homophobic. the error of our approach allowed a corrupt council member to continue to participate and increase his nefarious activities and hide behind all sorts of duplicity in the guise of a victim of ignorant and hateful attacks. grahams' behavior is not new, it is just bolder and now seemingly pathological. ted loza is in jail because he would not give up his boss. he is a loyal immigrant that sacrificed his good name and freedom for someone he believed to be a mentor and friend. if we had focused on grahams corrupt activities alone and nothing else, he may have been seen for the person he truly is, i am truly sorry. http://www.sinclairskinner.com

  • http://sinclairskinner.com sinclair skinner

    call it whatever you want, i must apologize to the citizens of the district of columbia for my association and participating in activities that could easily and rightfully be called homophobic. the error of our approach allowed a corrupt council member to continue to participate and increase his nefarious activities and hide behind all sorts of duplicity in the guise of a victim of ignorant and hateful attacks. grahams' behavior is not new, it is just bolder and now seemingly pathological. ted loza is in jail because he would not give up his boss. he is a loyal immigrant that sacrificed his good name and freedom for someone he believed to be a mentor and friend. if we had focused on grahams corrupt activities alone and nothing else, he may have been seen for the person he truly is, i am truly sorry.

  • Drez

    I agree with much if the above but want to add to TH's reasons for not accepting and not reporting that it seems very likely to me Graham needed to stay on Loza's good side.
    Loza certainly has enough knowledge to hurt Graham had Graham done anything to hurt him.

  • Is that *actually* Sinclair Skinner? Holy crap

    Can someone follow up on the Sinclair Skinner comment? That's been up on the post comment thread too and it's kind of a huge walk back (and a commendable one at that).

  • http://www.myarticles.co Thanasis Vegos

    Jim Graham is a disgrace! he was caught taking money from a businessman and not tries to use technical terms in order to convince that he not rotten!!!

  • Southeast Ken

    Miss Graham, the truth will come out one day. I beleive Ted Loza took the fall by himself. The truth will sat you free.

  • please

    Please, PLEASE won't someone run against Graham for his Council seat. He has always been ineffective and an embarrasment but he has also gotten complacent.

  • Straight Edge Forever

    Agree with the last commenter.

  • Mary

    I have know Jim Graham since he was first elected to office and yes he has an ego like the rest of them. BUT, he has gotten more funds for good projects in Ward 1 that actually benefit his constituents than other councilmember, that group who do not serve their constituents just themselves. He did not take the money and who knows how many other times in his career he has been offered money with a specific purpose and again he did not take it. The man is a lawyer and I am sure he knows how to stay within the law. To compare him with Harry Thomas is outrageous. Thomas knew he was violating the law just thought he should get away with taking money for himself. Kwame Brown knew he was slipping campaign money to his brother and it was illegal, but did it anyway. Gray knew he should not pay or hire Brown to keep putting down Fenty, but he had his staff do it and figured no one would blame him so he could get away with it. The other representatives actually took action and Graham did not take the illegal action, nor even think about it for more than an instant.

  • seDCdude

    Wishful thinking Mary!

    If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck then Mary it'sa DUCK...quack quack Graham!!

  • Sarah

    Time for Queen Graham to abdicate....

  • Cut that homophobic shit out

    yo calling him queen graham is not helpful to getting him out and makes those of us who hate him and are gay not want anything to do with you.

  • Cut that homophobic shit out

    Also, Mary, he kept Loza on his staff after the guy brought him what was an obvious bribe. If your standards for ethics are this low...wow.

  • sinclair skinner

    I'm straight as hell. The queen remarks are counterrevolutionary.

  • leeshato

    There needs to be written rules for members of the council because there are so many people tryimg to get them to support there programs or deals. There is a real need for ethics that are not present at the present time in the District. There is a lot of temptations that are a part of any legistrators whether it is city council or county council or state legislators or congress.

  • leeshato

    I want the people sho represent us on the council whether they are gay or straight to represent us not special interest. We should be concerned about that not calling people names or a persons personal preference.

  • candycane1

    A rose by any other name is still a rose and smells the same. So...... bribe, small gift, is all the same to everybody else but the one who did not report the wrong doing.

  • tony

    Some of these comments are very interesting. While there seem to be a recognition by a lot of Graham's supporters that he engaged in conduct un-becoming of a public official, they will not call for him to step down or be recalled. However, these are the same people that have bashed and demanded that Harry Thomas, Kwame, Gray and other black politicians be removed from office for their alledged misdeeds. What Graham did what absolutely wrong. The man was complicit in a scheme to shake down a corporate interest, period. However, for some odd reason he only receives the mildest of rebuke while black politicians in this city are spending their last dime to stay out of jail.

  • DCCommish

    Well I say JIM IT WAS A BRIBE! PERIOD OWN IT AND SHUT UP!

  • C’mon Sinclair

    Ted Loza was a good man?!? Please. He went to jail because he plead guilty to lesser charges. In other words, he was guilty and knew it! Let's not mince words here. Graham's chief of staff was corrupt. Graham turned down a BRIBE. He's just lucky that no real leadership in the Latino community is willing to challenge him. Because once a true leader steps up, its curtains for the Graham show.

  • Ward 1 Voter

    tony, you're an idiot. The people of Ward 1 who pay attention to city politics and who aren't full of "goodwill" are sick to death of him. Graham should step down. If he won't step down, he should be recalled.

    And if that doesn't work, then he should be a juicy, ripe target for at least a couple of prominent Ward 1 people who would make terrific CMs.

    Now, are you willing to say the same about a man who literally stole money from children so he could drool over the juggs at some random stripmall Hooters? If not, why not?

  • http://letschange.org Respected Citizens

    This fag knows he's guilty, and no strong holds have been placed on his ass as of yet. So, when will Ward 1 select another candidate, and drop this old and short ugly ass Queen

  • Marciela

    Too many council members have legal issues for my taste. To me, comparing their behaviors does not negate any wrongdoing. They are by and large a piss poor assembly of people who do not believe they should be accountable for their actions. Gay or straight, black or white, wrong is wrong is wrong. A bribe is a bribe, even if offered in goodwill. Stealing is stealing whether little or a great deal is taken. Steering a contract is wrong despite the motivation for doing it. Getting caught on tape is priceless and exposes the status quo. These are all patterns of behavior that are rampant across that council. The feds need to look at each member. God only knows how many secret deals there really are.

  • Southeast Ken

    Ted Loza committed a felony and he will not be able to apply for citizenship, once he get's out of prison. ICE might deport him back to his native South American country. Good riddance!!!

  • http://www.glaaforum.org Rick Rosendall

    Thanasis Vegos: Please pay attention. Jim Graham was NOT caught taking a bribe; he refused to accept the money.

    Mr. Skinner: You seem to be sorry that your homophobia backfired, not sorry for the homophobia itself. But at least it's a start.

    Respected Citizens: Is your handle meant to be ironic?

  • tony

    @Ward 1 Voter, you are a worthless idiot. While you may think that I should agree with your twisted opinions but I do not. Unlike, some of these black commenters on this blog who agree with you, I do not. I am a free black man and I will say what I please, when I please, and as I please.

    Again, I say that there are rules for y'all and rules for us, period. Every since the inception of this racist country black folks have been held to different standards and subject to harsher treatment. But of course, you didn't get that memo.

  • sinclair skinner

    Rick you don't have to accept my apology. What's sad more people would publically admit there past wrong behavior but self righteous perfect people rather take a verbal ass womping. another thing I've learned over the years is that God made Jerks straight and gay.

  • http://www.glaaforum.org Rick Rosendall

    Sinclair, I am happy to accept your apology, as far as it went. But come on, look at the way you wrote it. Just last week I said about another person with a history of homophobic remarks, Leroy Thorpe, that I have no stake in denying anyone a chance at redeeming themselves. But you are certainly correct that God made jerks both straight and gay. I myself have done coalition work for years, such as with the NAACP-DC Police Task Force, precisely because I believe that we are a lot better off united than divided, especially given that the District has neither legislative nor budgetary autonomy.

  • sinclair skinner

    Rick Again my apology which was quite straight forward excuse the pun and typos. this comments section evidences my point you have ignorant folks writing hurtful things instead of addressing the corruption that hurts all of us. Homophobia and racism is wrong and politicians often distract us from their bad behavior by hiding behind these terrible things. When I see a white person gay or straight say or do something racist, I try to do a better job accepting their apologies if they think enough to do so. I must admit I'm also jaded when it comes to apologies, one day at a time.

  • sinclair skinner

    Homophobia and racism are wrong. Grammatically challenged

  • NE John

    she's got electric boobs and mohair pubes, you know I read it in a magazeeeeene

  • http://www.glaaforum.org Rick Rosendall

    Sinclair, I'm glad we agree.

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