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!!!”