As some of you may have noticed, we've gotten into a long-distance back and forth with the campaign manager of Mark Green (R), sitting US congressman and now candidate for Governor of Wisconsin.
Earlier this month I posted a roster of congressional staffers given tickets for a WWF event at the Abramoff skybox back in October 2000. One of the names on the list was Mark Graul, who was then Green's Chief of Staff and is now his campaign manager.
A Wisconsin political newsletter Wispolitics.com (which is available only to subscribers, unfortunately) followed up with Graul and asked him what the deal was. Graul jocularly denied he ever went to the event.
As Wispolitics.com reported it ...
Graul admits to being a former pro wrestling enthusiast but says he hasn't been to a match since the early '80s, when he saw The Crusher take on Baron Von Raschke at the Mecca in Milwaukee. "I did not go (to the WWF Raw is War)," says Graul, who was in Wisconsin at the time of the event. "I never went to a WWF event in D.C., don't recall ever being asked to go to the event, and I've never met Jack Abramoff in my life. He could come up and punch me in the face and I wouldn't know. I don't know why I'm on that list."
But said Graul, "I cannot claim I was never a fan of WWF.'' He then rattled off the names of favorites Koko B. Ware and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. "But when they made Hulk Hogan into Hollywood Hogan and turned him into a bad guy, I lost interest," he said.
A few days after that we followed up.
We noted that we had no way of knowing whether Graul actually showed up at the skybox, only that Preston Gates emails (Abramoff's firm at the time) show him being given tickets to attend. Moreover, those emails describe him repeatedly getting, or at least requesting tickets, to events. No fewer than six times by our count over the course of 2000, the last year Abramoff was at the firm. The events ranged from basketball games to more professional wrestling to a concert by Limp Bizkit.
Wispolitics.com again got in touch with Graul. And this is what they heard ...
While Graul says he knows Jennifer Calvert, the Abramoff staffer Marshall identifies as getting the tickets for Graul, he says he never asked her or anyone else for freebies. "I never asked for tickets to anything when I was in Washington," he said.
As further evidence, Graul offers that he moved back to Wisconsin after getting married in May 2000, and was rarely in Washington on weekends. The NBA All-Star game was held in Washington on Feb. 11, 2001, after Graul said he moved from the D.C. area.
And, he said, mosh pits are not his style. "If you ask anybody who knows me well, the idea of me at a Limp Bizkit concert is pretty funny," said Graul. "I couldn't name one song by any of those people, if they even have songs."
Graul said he did attend a Wizards-Milwaukee Bucks game while in Washington, which he said was well-attended by many Hill staffers from Wisconsin, but said he couldn't recall how the tickets came to him. "I can't remember. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I have no clue if that was with Jennifer or not. I never asked for tickets for anything. Oftentimes people who had tickets would offer them."
Here, as you can see, we're into sorta kinda non-denial denials of several sorts. He never 'asked' for tickets? Was he given them anyway? As for Limp Bizkit, maybe he's not a fan, but did he go to the concert in the Abramoff skybox? It's really not a hard question to answer.
(In case you're wondering, I've tried to contact Graul myself. But he hasn't gotten back to me.)
As you can see, with the Wizards-Bucks game he concedes he was there, but goes for what you might call the limited, modified Woodstock response. As in, yeah, I got some. But those were crazy days. And I don't remember how I got it or who I got it from.
It seems possible that Graul's memory might be a bit better with the Wizards-Bucks game because in the letter in question, Calvert specifically says she planned to host him at the event in person.
Now, it's been suggested that maybe Graul didn't go to all these events himself. Maybe he requested them for junior members of the staff or even allowed them to put in the requests in his name. In at least one of the emails, Calvert seems to make it pretty clear the request came directly from Graul.
"I got a request from Mark Graul, COS for Rep. Green, for tickets for the NBA all star game and the dunk contest that is apparently going to be at the MCI Center in early February," she wrote Abramoff and his assistant Susan Ralston on November 28th, 2000. "Can we honor his request?"
I tried to contact Calvert herself, who left Preston Gates a couple months later for Washington Strategies, to find out what the story was. But she hasn't returned my call.