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

Friday, February 10, 2006

Three more lawmakers tied to lobbyist

Friday, February 10, 2006 ยท Last updated 7:22 p.m. PT

Three more lawmakers tied to lobbyist


WASHINGTON -- Three members of Congress have been linked to efforts by lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a former General Services Administration official to secure leases of government property for Abramoff's clients, according to court filings by federal prosecutors on Friday.

The filings in U.S. District Court do not allege any wrongdoing by the elected officials but list them in documents portraying David Safavian, a former GSA chief of staff, as an active adviser to Abramoff, giving the lobbyists tips on how to use members of Congress to navigate the agency's bureaucracy.

Abramoff is cooperating with federal investigators in a wide-ranging probe of corruption on Capitol Hill that threatens several powerful members of Congress and their staff members. Last month, he pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.

Safavian is charged with lying to a GSA ethics officer when he said Abramoff was not seeking business with the agency at the time the lobbyist paid for Safavian and several others to go on a golf outing to Scotland in August 2002.

At the time of the trip, prosecutors said, Abramoff was trying to get GSA approval for leases of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington for an Indian tribe to develop and for federal property in Silver Spring, Md., for use by a Jewish school.

Two of the elected officials referred to in Friday's filings have been identified in published reports as Reps. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, and Don Young, R-Alaska. According to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, the two representatives wrote to the GSA in September 2002, urging the agency to give preferential treatment to groups such as Indian tribes when evaluating development proposals for the Old Post Office.

LaTourette maintains he did nothing improper by advocating special opportunities for certain small businesses in areas known as HUBzones, or Historically Underutilized Business zones. His spokeswoman, Deborah Setliff, said that the letter was reviewed by Young's chief of staff and counsel and that it did not advocate any particular business over another.

A spokesman for Young did not return telephone calls.

Friday's filings by prosecutors refer to a third member of Congress, Rep. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va. Her name appears in e-mails that suggest she was trying to help Abramoff secure a GSA lease for land in Silver Spring for a religious school.

Capito claims to know nothing about the effort. "The action taken by her former chief of staff was done without her knowledge, approval or consent," said her spokesman, Joel Brubaker. "She was not aware of any contact with GSA of any type on this matter."

Mark Johnson, Capito's former chief of staff, said he did not bring the issue to Capito's attention. He said he was contacted by Neil Volz, a colleague of Abramoff's and a former chief of staff for Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

Johnson said Volz asked him to check on the status of a project involving the GSA. Johnson said he believes he called a friend at the GSA but doesn't recall the outcome.

Prosecutors included the e-mails in documents filed in response to a request by Safavian's lawyers to dismiss the indictment against him. Safavian's lawyers want a federal judge to throw out the charges on grounds there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

In their filing, prosecutors laid out a series of contacts between Abramoff and Safavian that show the former GSA official gave inside information and advice to the lobbyist.

Safavian used his personal e-mail during business hours to communicate with Abramoff several times, according to prosecutors. He also edited the draft of a letter that was probably sent under LaTourette and Young's names.

And Safavian advised Abramoff to tell his wife to use her maiden name during a meeting with GSA officials so she wouldn't draw attention to her politically connected husband's involvement in the project.

In a July 23, 2002, e-mail to a GSA official, Safavian discussed getting information about the Silver Spring site to Capito's office. But Volz discovered a complication the next day.

Volz told Abramoff that someone at the GSA wanted the congresswoman to put her request in writing. "We can't ask the most vulnerable Republican incumbent member of Congress in the House to put something in writing that can be made public," Volz wrote. "The congresswoman's office has already put the request in and you would think that would be enough!!!"

Ex-Abramoff client subpoenaed in Republican fundraising probe | - Houston Chronicle

Channel One's parent donated to TRMPAC before education board's vote on resolution
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - New subpoenas issued by Travis County prosecutors on Thursday cast light on a campaign contribution made by Primedia Inc. in 2002 just two days before the State Board of Education cast a vote that could have affected the company's profits in Texas.


Documents requested by the subpoenas show the New York publishing company gave $2,500 to Texans for a Republican Majority, the political action committee founded by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, on Nov. 13, 2002. The money was solicited for TRMPAC by the husband of a board member, Dallas businessman Vance Miller, according to a document obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

While the subpoenas call attention to the Primedia donation to TRMPAC at the time of the board vote, they do not appear to signal an expansion of District Attorney Ronnie Earle's investigation of DeLay and TRMPAC to include the State Board of Education.

Two days after the contribution, the education panel was scheduled to vote on a nonbinding resolution by board member Judy Strickland urging school districts to cancel their contracts with Primedia's Channel One education service because it subjects children in the classroom to commercials.

Channel One co-founder Jim Ritts flew in from New York to appear before the board in opposition to the resolution.

Miller's wife, Geraldine, offered an alternative resolution that simply emphasized that school districts should give close scrutiny to relationships with commercial entities and the marketing of products to children in schools.

The Miller resolution thwarted a possible statewide fight for Primedia to retain its Texas contracts. The resolution passed the board 12-3.

Miller is now chairman of the state education board. She said Primedia's donation to TRMPAC through her husband was not connected to the Channel One vote. "I have nothing to do with this. It (the TRMPAC contribution) had no relationship with Channel One, whatsoever," she said.

Whit Clay, a spokesman for Channel One, said the company had not yet been served with the subpoena but will comply.

The subpoenas specifically request documents relating to Primedia in regard to "pending or proposed federal legislation intended to affect the interests" of Primedia in 2002 or 2003.

The subpoenas seem to target relationships that DeLay, R-Sugar Land, had with convicted influence peddler Jack Abramoff and his Washington lobby clients' donations to TRMPAC.

Abramoff was the registered lobbyist for Primedia at the time of the 2002 donations.

The subpoenas do not mention him, but former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed also was lobbying for Channel One at the time.

Several Texas public interest groups have complained to Travis County Attorney David Escamilla that Reed violated state law by failing to register as a lobbyist in 2002. Among the claims is that he called board of education members urging them to vote against Strickland's resolution.

"Clearly, Ralph Reed was contacting members of the State Board of Education on behalf of Channel One and its owner, Primedia," said Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice.

DeLay is accused of participating in a 2002 scheme to launder illegal corporate money through the Republican National Committee in exchange for legal donations to seven candidates for the Texas House.


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