WASHINGTON — The influence-peddling scandal surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff heats up again on Friday when a former Bush administration official and associate of the disgraced lobbyist appears at a pretrial hearing in federal court.
David Safavian, the White House's former top procurement official, is charged with misrepresenting his connections with lobbyists — specifically, Abramoff — while working at the General Services Administration.
A key event was a lavish golf junket to Scotland in 2002, mostly paid for by a charity Abramoff controlled. Among those who went on the trip was Republican Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed Jr.
The golf trip cost $130,000, according to court documents. The tab was officially paid for by the Capital Athletic Foundation, a nonprofit run by Abramoff, but the funding was provided by a handful of his Indian tribe lobbying clients in payments sent to the foundation. Prosecutors said Safavian gave Abramoff a check for $3,100 to cover his share of expenses associated with the trip.
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Safavian sought clearance from a GSA ethics official prior to the Scotland trip, but prosecutors say he did not tell the official about Abramoff's attempts to acquire federally owned properties controlled by the GSA, or about the help Safavian was providing to Abramoff in those efforts.
According to court papers filed by the prosecution: "On the Scotland trip, defendant (Safavian) and Abramoff communicated about Abramoff acquiring an interest in GSA properties. ... Abramoff commented: 'Had good chats with David during the trip. He wants us to push hard on this project [Old Post Office] and he thinks we can get it.'"
Three other lawmakers have been linked to efforts by Abramoff and Safavian to "secure leases" of government property for Abramoff's clients, according to court filings by federal prosecutors.
Republican Reps. Steven LaTourette of Ohio and Don Young of Alaska both wrote to the GSA on September 2002, "urging the agency to give preferential treatment to groups such as Indian tribes when evaluating development projects," court papers say.
The name of Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., appears in e-mails suggesting she was trying to help Abramoff secure a GSA lease for land in Silver Spring, Md., according to prosecutors.
An April 18 trial date has been scheduled for Safavian before U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman.