Three more Republicans caught in Abramoff’s web

Three more Republican members of Congress have been linked to
efforts by lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a former General Services
Administration official appointed by President Bush in a questionable
effort to secure leases of government property for Abramoff’s clients,
court filings by federal prosecutors reveal.

Reps. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, Don Young, R-Alaska and Shelly
Moore Capito, R-W.Va. are identified in filings in U.S. District Court.
The files also portray Bush loyalist 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.

LaTourette and Young 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 claims 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. Young’s office did not return telephone calls.

Capito’s 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!!!”

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