News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Monday, September 26, 2005

'Total Business Angle'

Monday, September 26, 2005; A22

THE ARREST LAST WEEK of David H. Safavian, formerly the Bush administration's top procurement official, marks two significant steps in the investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Charges that Mr. Safavian lied to federal officials and investigators represent the first criminal prosecution arising from an 18-month probe of Mr. Abramoff's lobbying practices; Mr. Abramoff was indicted last month, but on unrelated charges of wire fraud and conspiracy involving a casino he owned in Florida. Perhaps more ominously for the White House, they also show that Mr. Abramoff's attempts at influence-peddling were not limited to Capitol Hill and that the administration, not only key lawmakers, could be tainted by the investigation.

Mr. Safavian's arrest could hardly have come at a worse time -- or in a worse agency -- for the administration. As head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget, he was responsible -- until his resignation Sept. 16 -- for developing contracting policies for the Hurricane Katrina rebuilding effort.

Likewise, Mr. Safavian's lack of procurement experience echoes the criticism of

former FEMA director Michael D. Brown. What Mr. Safavian did bring to the Bush

administration -- in his OMB job and before that as chief of staff at the General Services Administration, the position involved in the charges against him -- were useful political connections.

The Bush administration is neither the first nor the last to reward political allies. But given GOP professions of outrage over Clinton administration hiring practices -- recall the uproar over Craig Livingstone, the former bouncer who was personnel security director in the Clinton White House before being bounced for collecting FBI files -- it's hard to feel terribly charitable this time around.

The charges against Mr. Safavian concern the now-famous golfing trip Mr. Abramoff led to Scotland in 2002. According to the criminal complaint against him, Mr. Safavian obtained approval from GSA ethics officials to accept a free ride on Mr. Abramoff's chartered aircraft, but he falsely stated that Mr. Abramoff had no business before the agency.

In fact, as depicted in the complaint, Mr. Abramoff was angling -- with Mr. Safavian's behind-the-scenes direction -- for the agency's help on two matters: obtaining a lease on the Old Post Office building for one of his Indian tribal clients and leasing other government property for the private school he founded. Mr. Safavian allegedly shared an internal GSA e-mail with Mr. Abramoff -- on the very day that he received the ethics opinion clearing the Scotland trip -- and helped ghostwrite a letter to the GSA seeking the lease.

Mr. Safavian's lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, told the New York Times that his discussions about the properties with Mr. Abramoff didn't add up to having business before the agency. Consider, though, Mr. Abramoff's take: When a colleague asked in an e-mail why Mr. Safavian had been invited -- "I like him but didn't know u did as much. Business angle?" -- Mr. Abramoff didn't mince words. "Total business angle," he e-mailed back. "He is new COS of GSA."

Lobbyist blames woes on friend - State News

Jack Abramoff claims a former partner lied to him about a deal to buy gambling boats.
The Associated Press

September 26, 2005

MIAMI -- Prominent Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and New York businessman Adam Kidan were once good friends who had known each other since their college days in the Washington area. They stayed in touch though the years and became business partners in a 2000 deal to buy a lucrative Florida fleet of gambling boats.

Now, both are charged with fraud in a federal grand-jury indictment in connection with their purchase of SunCruz Casinos.

And Abramoff says in court documents that he was hoodwinked by Kidan, who Abramoff contends kept secret his past business failures and disbarment as an attorney.

"Had I known these facts about Kidan, I would never have signed" the SunCruz loan papers central to the federal indictment, Abramoff said in one of thousands of pages of court documents filed in response to a lawsuit brought against Abramoff, Kidan, SunCruz and others by two lenders after the ill-fated purchase.

Kidan never responded to Abramoff's allegations, nor did he answer the lawsuit filed by SunCruz financiers Foothill Capital Corp. and Citadel Equity Fund Ltd.

A default judgment was entered against Kidan in the case. But the lawsuit was dismissed Sept. 1 without damages being awarded, shortly after Abramoff and Kidan were indicted.

Kidan's lawyer in the Florida criminal case, Martin Jaffe, said he would not comment on Abramoff's claims. A telephone message left at Kidan's home in New York was not returned.

Abramoff, long a close associate of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Kidan are charged in the six-count indictment with wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy in their September 2000 purchase of SunCruz for $147.5 million.

Both have pleaded not guilty, with a status hearing set for Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Paul Huck. Trial is tentatively set to begin Dec. 12. Kidan and Abramoff are both free on bail.


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