September 8, 2010 at 3:37 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
FBI investigating ‘robocall’ attacks against Graham

Openly gay Councilmember Jim Graham (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Federal authorities are investigating at least two separate computer generated phone messages initiated by an anonymous person or group that denounced gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) as being “immoral” and “wretched.”

The phone messages, known as “robocalls,” were placed to homes of Ward 1 residents on Saturday. They urged the residents not to vote for Graham in his re-election bid because, among other things, he helped pay for an abortion for the girlfriend of a former member of his staff.

“Paying to take a life is evil, especially when you weren’t even the parent,” one of the phone messages said. “Jim Grahamn is wretched, immoral and doesn’t deserve to represent us. Let’s get a decent human being to fight for our children — not kill them.”

The allegation apparently was based on a Washington City Paper story last year reporting that Graham loaned his former aide, Ted Loza, money to help pay for an abortion for his girlfriend. The City Paper said Graham confirmed the report and said Loza repaid him. Graham later dismissed Loza after a grand jury indicted him on bribery charges related to the city’s taxicab industry. Graham has not been implicated in the taxicab bribery matter, which has been the subject of a federal investigation.

“We have turned over information about the calls to local and federal authorities, including the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission,” said Chuck Theis, a spokesperson for Graham’s election committee.

Theis said the calls appear to be aimed at the sender’s opposition to abortion. The automated phone messages did not refer to Graham’s status as one of two openly gay members of Council. The second of the two robocalls accuses Graham of having committed adultery with a woman, a claim that Theis calls “ridiculous” as well as “outrageous.”

Federal law prohibits robocalls that don’t identify the individual or organization initiating the calls. Theis said phone companies routinely cooperate with local and federal authorities to help trace the calls and identify the vendor that the initiator retains to transmit the calls. The vendor is required by law to reveal the call’s initiator to the authorities.

Graham’s two opponents in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary and his Republican opponent in the November general election have each said they had nothing to do with the attack calls. GOP opponent Marc Morgan, who is gay, issued a statement calling the phone messages “a horrible political stunt” that’s unethical.

“I have personally reached out to Councilmember Graham and assured him that neither I nor anyone associated with my campaign was involved,” Morgan said. “Furthermore, I will work with the Council member to identity the responsible parties and assure they are due swift and necessary punishment.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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