- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Jim Graham is in a pickle jar and his colleagues on the D.C. Council are slated on Monday to screw the lid tighter.

Fortunately for D.C. taxpayers and the business community, the four-term member of the D.C. Council does not appear to have financially benefited from allegedly throwing his political influence into the city’s contracting sphere.

And that is indeed a very good thing, considering the many local and federal lawmakers and chief executives who have fallen from grace for accepting kickbacks and misusing public dollars and campaign funds.

No, Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, is merely accused of using his position on the Metro Board of Directors and on the council to sway contractors as if they were playing on a teeter-totter.

That’s scandalous yet small potatoes when compared with, say, Mark Sanford, the former Republican governor of South Carolina who used taxpayers’ money to play footsies with a woman not his wife.

Or former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Illinois Democrat, who admitted in court last week to misusing campaign money to purchase furs, celebrity memorabilia, an over-the-top Rolex watch and expensive children’s furniture.

Or Jack B. Johnson, the former Prince George’s County executive who was overheard giving his wife instructions on what to do with tens of thousands of dollars in cash from kickbacks.

Or the former pay-to-play Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of corruption for trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat after he won the 2008 presidential race.

Or William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, who was found guilty of 11 counts of corruption after federal authorities found $90,000 in cash stuffed in the freezer of his D.C. home.

Or the very married James E. McGreevey of New Jersey, who outed himself and resigned from the governorship amid an extramarital homosexual affair.

Or Marion Barry, who was censured by the D.C. council for an alleged plan involving a female acquaintance and a city contract.

No, there doesn’t appear to be any sexual favors, Eddie Van Halen memorabilia or such in the Graham affair.

But the D.C. ethics board did find “substantial” evidence that Mr. Graham abused his office regarding his involvement in a D.C. Lottery contract and a Metro project.

For his part, Mr. Graham has said he broke no law and was not part of a kickback scheme so, at this juncture, there is no reason to call him a liar.

The council, however, must surge forward.

On Friday, Mr. Graham had a day in court, where his attorneys unsuccessfully argued before D.C. Superior Court Judge Anthony C. Epstein that the ethics panel itself violated law by not allowing Mr. Graham to review and rebut documents from a Metro probe that it used during its own investigation.

Judge Epstein’s ruling against Mr. Graham effectively cleared the way for the council to vote Monday on whether to reprimand the popular lawmaker.

Each council member, including Mr. Graham, likely will be given the chance to address the why’s and why-nots of their anticipated vote — and they should do so as articulately and dispassionately as possible.

The purpose is to act both on the letter and intent of the laws and regulations of the District — and, of course, prove to the public that they have aligned themselves with a strict code of conduct.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com