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  1. #1
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    Feb 2005
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    White House Official Warned Abramoff

    White House Official Warned Abramoff

    The Bush administration's former chief procurement official tipped off lobbyist Jack Abramoff that the government was about to suspend the federal contracts of an Abramoff client, newly filed court papers say.

    David Safavian provided "sensitive and confidential information" about four subsidiaries of Tyco International to Abramoff regarding internal deliberations at the General Services Administration, say the court papers filed Friday in a criminal case against Safavian.

    Abramoff has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud in a burgeoning bribery probe centered on Capitol Hill but also involving the Interior Department.

    The White House is refusing to release photographs of President Bush and Abramoff or to reveal what contact Abramoff had with White House aides.

    Acting on the information that Abramoff provided the company in November 2003, Tyco lawyer Timothy Flanigan, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, contacted the general counsel to the GSA and asked for an opportunity to address the suspension.

    The company revealed Flanigan's role in a statement.

    In October, Flanigan withdrew his nomination to be Bush's deputy attorney general. His confirmation was delayed due to questions about his dealings with Abramoff when Abramoff was a Tyco lobbyist.

    The government had planned to suspend Tyco because of alleged criminal conduct by former Tyco executives.

    After advising Abramoff about the internal deliberations at GSA, Safavian suggested to Abramoff what arguments Tyco should make when it appealed the suspension decision, the court papers in Safavian's federal court case say.

    Once tipped off by Abramoff, Tyco hired an outside law firm and successfully petitioned the government to lift the suspension and allow Tyco to continue to perform on government contracts.

    The law firm outlined "the many steps that Tyco had taken, including to bring on a new board of directors, a new CEO and new corporate senior management," Tyco said in its statement.

    Safavian faces trial on charges that he lied and obstructed investigations into whether he aided Abramoff in efforts to acquire GSA-controlled property around the nation's capital.

    The government said in its court filing Friday that it intends to present the information regarding Tyco at Safavian's upcoming trial. Safavian has pleaded innocent and his lawyers have moved for dismissal of all charges.

    Safavian is accused of concealing from federal investigators that Abramoff was seeking to do business with the GSA when Safavian joined the lobbyist on a golf trip to Scotland in 2002. At the time, Safavian was GSA's chief of staff. He became the Bush administration's chief procurement official in November 2004.

    In its statement, Tyco said that the information from Abramoff had come in unsolicited, that the corporation did not use Abramoff's services to respond to GSA, and that the company did not contact Safavian directly.

    The company said its outside counsel, George Terwilliger, was assured by Justice Department prosecutors that neither the company nor anyone at the company, including Flanigan, is accused, is suspected or is being investigated for any wrongdoing.

    In May 2003, Abramoff, then employed by the Washington firm Greenberg Traurig, solicited Tyco for lobbying on a tax issue.

    Prosecutors say Abramoff recommended that Tyco hire both him and a public relations and campaign consulting firm called GrassRoots Interactive, but hid from Tyco that GrassRoots Interactive was his business.

    In May and June 2003, Tyco paid GrassRoots Interactive, directly and through Greenberg Traurig's bank account, about $1.8 million, of which about $1.6 million went to Abramoff and entities he controlled, prosecutors say.

    .

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    12,866

    Re: White House Official Warned Abramoff

    Abramoff Scandal Forces Republican Reversal on New Ethics Laws

    Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Representative David Dreier once tried to torpedo an effort to limit corporate political donations. He voted to allow charities to fly lawmakers to their events and to let Republicans keep their leadership posts even if indicted.

    Now, the California lawmaker has been tapped by Republicans in the House of Representatives as the leader of a move to strengthen lobbying and ethics laws amid the scandal involving Jack Abramoff. Dreier's record, and those of other Republican leaders, illustrates why the party may struggle to convince voters it's serious about overhauling the money-in-politics system.

    Congressional Republicans are standing against their own history of embracing lobbyists and relaxing ethics rules since they took control of Congress in 1995, some lawmakers and analysts say.

    ``We don't have a good track record,'' said Representative Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican and co-author of the 2002 law banning unlimited corporate, union and individual donations to the political parties that Dreier tried to stop.

    The Republicans' connections with lobbyists have helped the party maintain control of Congress. The Republicans' share of donations from Washington's K Street lobbying corridor more than doubled to 52 percent in 2004 from 1994, with the Democratic share dropping to 48 percent from 75 percent.

    `Very Worried'

    ``They had a real machine going,'' said James Thurber, director of the Washington-based American University Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. ``They cannot milk K Street'' if they go too far in tightening restrictions, Thurber said. ``That's why they're very worried.''

    The House on Feb. 1 is scheduled to vote on its first new legislation curtailing the activity of lobbyists: a measure to ban lawmakers-turned-lobbyists from going on to the House floor or using the House gym, said Jo Maney, a spokeswoman for Dreier, 53. That day, Dreier is scheduled to propose a comprehensive package of new lobbying and ethics rules, Maney said.

    Among the measures likely to be considered are proposals banning privately funded travel; doubling to two years the time a former lawmaker or congressional staff member must wait before lobbying former colleagues; and requiring more frequent and detailed disclosure of lobbying activity.

    Spurring these proposals was Abramoff's guilty plea on Jan. 3 to criminal charges stemming from his bilking of Indian-tribe clients. Abramoff, who offered gifts, donations and other ``things of value'' to public officials, was among many lobbyists who forged close ties to Republican lawmakers in the last decade.

    `K Street Project'

    Lobbyists were regularly invited to meetings at the Capitol, where they were sometimes allowed to help write legislation, and enlisted to back the party's agenda. The party also pressured lobbying firms to hire Republicans and donate to the party's candidates, in what is known as the ``K Street Project,'' headed by former Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

    Dreier was chosen to head the campaign to address ethics issues because of his ties to the congressional leadership. The 13-term representative is chairman of the Rules Committee, which decides what amendments can be offered to legislation being considered by the House.

    Rick Santorum, 47, who is leading the effort in the Senate, is the third-ranking Republican, serving as conference chairman.

    Dreier defended the Republicans' commitment to ethics rules at a Jan. 17 press conference. ``The Republican Party has been and continues to be the party of reform,'' he said.

    Term Limits

    House Republicans adopted a package of rules in January 1995, when they first took control, that included term limits on chairmen and leaders and the appointment of an outside auditor to review House spending. Later that year, Congress voted to ban most gifts to lawmakers and enacted new reporting requirements for lobbyists.

    ``It will always be a priority of the Republicans to make sure that this House is as ethical as it can be,'' Dreier spokeswoman Maney said.

    Santorum also touted his record in Jan. 25 testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He cited his efforts to impose term limits and eliminate subsidies for the Senate barber shop and restaurant. ``I have a track record of reform,'' the Pennsylvania lawmaker said.

    Larry Noble, the former top lawyer at the Federal Election Commission, said the record doesn't bear that out. ``They have a history that really calls into question the seriousness of this commitment to ethics reform,'' said Noble, who now directs the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, which studies campaign finance. ``It makes it harder for them to sell what they're doing.''

    Motion Rejected

    Dreier's Rules Committee in 2001 proposed bringing to the floor Shays's legislation banning unlimited corporate contributions to the parties under rules that would have made it harder to pass. Dreier's proposal was rejected by a vote on the House floor, the first time such a proposal from the Rules Committee had been turned down under House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois. Dreier later voted against the final measure.

    In the Senate, Santorum opposed the same legislation, sponsored by Senators John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, and supported efforts to block a final vote.

    Shays, 60, said the Democratic record is blemished, too. After Congress banned large donations to political parties in 2002, Democrats were far quicker to set up so-called ``527 groups,'' independent organizations that have no restrictions on contributions, he said. Democratic 527 groups took in $261 million for the 2004 elections, compared with $154 million for Republican groups, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a Washington- based group that tracks campaign donations.

    Food for Lawmakers

    Dreier and his fellow House Republicans in 2003 voted to make it easier for lobbyists to provide food for lawmakers and congressional staff members. They also backed a measure to allow charities to pay a lawmaker's expenses to attend their events.

    In 2004, they changed Republican conference rules to allow indicted leaders to keep their positions. The rule was changed to protect DeLay, who was being investigated in Texas, and was rescinded after a public outcry. DeLay, 58, was indicted last September and forced to step down from his majority leader post.

    Hastert replaced Representative Joel Hefley of Colorado, the Republican chairman of the House ethics committee, after the panel rebuked DeLay three times in 2004. And House Republicans considered removing limits on donations that date back to the 1974 campaign-finance law passed after the Watergate scandal.

    The House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over election law, passed the legislation last year, although it never reached the floor for a vote.

    ``It's much harder for them to claim the mantle of reform,'' said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a Washington- based advocacy group that supports new lobbying rules. ``They're the anti-reformers.''


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