Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Don Young (R-Alaska) sought to intervene with a federal agency in September 2002 on behalf of American Indian clients of lobbyist Jack Abramoff as part of Abramoff’s effort to gain control of the Old Post Office Pavilion in downtown Washington, D.C.
LaTourette and Young both wrote to the General Services Administration in September 2002 urging Stephen Perry, then head of the GSA, to give preferential treatment to organizations such as Indian tribes when the GSA evaluated proposals to develop the Old Post Office site.
Young, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, received $7,000 from two of Abramoff’s tribal clients just weeks after the letters went to the GSA.
LaTourette, for his part, said he agreed to send the letters after being lobbied on the issue by a former top aide to Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio). Ney is under investigation by the Justice Department over his ties to Abramoff. Ten days ago, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) pressured Ney into giving up his gavel at the House Administration Committee because of his alleged involvement in the Abramoff scandal.
Abramoff’s interest in leasing and developing the Old Post Office building is one of the key pieces of the federal government’s case against David Safavian, the former GSA chief of staff who was indicted Sept. 19 on charges of making false statements to Senate and federal investigators and obstruction of justice.
Abramoff himself pleaded guilty on Jan. 3 to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officers. The one-time lobbying superstar is cooperating with the Justice Department in its ongoing corruption probe.
In its complaint against Safavian, federal prosecutors allege that Abramoff repeatedly sought guidance from Safavian on how best to proceed in winning control of the Old Post Office.
An affidavit filed by an FBI agent in support of the Safavian complaint states that Abramoff sought “changes in the regulations governing the development of the [Old Post Office], including the granting of HUBZone contracting preferences that could have given some of Lobbyist A’s tribal clients a competitive advantage in efforts to lease and develop the building.” Lobbyist A, while not named, is Abramoff.
The affidavit also adds further details on Abramoff and Safavian’s interactions with regard to the Old Post Office, Washington’s second tallest building and a downtown tourist magnet for more than 100 years.
“Lobbyist A solicited SAFAVIAN’s assistance and guidance regarding leasing the [Old Post Office] from GSA,” the affidavit states. “For example, on July 22, 2002, Lobbyist A sent an e-mail to SAFAVIAN’s home e-mail address containing a draft letter purportedly to be sent by at least two Members of Congress to the Administrator of GSA and requesting special consideration for HUBZone businesses. Lobbyist A asked SAFAVIAN, ‘Does this work, or do you want it to be longer?’”
The affidavit adds: “SAFAVIAN responded to Lobbyist A’s requests for assistance and guidance regarding leasing the OPO from GSA. For example, on July 25, 2002, SAFAVIAN forwarded an e-mail describing resistance by an Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) employee to leasing the OPO from GSA. SAFAVIAN advised Lobbyist A, “I suspect we’ll end up having to bring some Hill pressure to bear on OMB.’” It is unclear who at OMB objected or why.