Jim Graham showed up at the LeDroit Park Apartments on Friday afternoon ready to hand out free turkeys to public housing residents. But first, he wanted to give a speech, and restless elements in the line weren't cooperating.
"I won't give away any turkeys until you listen to these remarks," Graham warned.
Talkative residents aside, the turkey giveaway is a dream for a local pol—especially one who, like Graham, is considering running for re-election. The event even looked like a campaign rally, with letters inside the turkey bags touting Graham's 2002 campaign slogan, "Unity and Progress/Unidad y Progreso." A banner from Graham's 2010 campaign, complete with signature Graham bowtie, was stretched across the truck holding the turkeys.
Best of all for the Ward 1 councilmember: It didn't cost him anything. Instead, local megadeveloper JBG footed the bill.
If you want to know how much goodwill Graham owes JBG for the giveaway, though, you're out of luck. A spokesman for the developer declined to give figures, saying only that the money was paid to a nonprofit which then purchased the turkeys. Graham himself declined to comment on how much the turkeys cost, saying that the practice has been condoned by the Council's ethics office. (Council general counsel David Zvenyach also declined to comment.)
Yes, once again, the District is in for a holiday season of councilmembers' reputations benefiting from thousands of dollars in turkey giveaways without ever having to disclose the money behind them. Providing someone with a Thanksgiving is an arguably more effective way of reaching a constituent than a radio ad or yard sign, but unlike those more traditional methods, the free turkeys don't show up on local politicans' disclosures.
Read more Disclosure Not on the Menu at Council Turkey Giveaways