- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A former Bush administration official is charged with making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation into his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

David Safavian, a former chief of staff of the General Services Administration (GSA) and Abramoff lobbying associate, concealed from federal investigators that Mr. Abramoff was seeking to do business with the government when Mr. Safavian, a GSA official at the time, joined him on a golf trip to Scotland in 2002, according to an FBI affidavit and government officials.

FBI agent Jeffrey A. Reising said in the affidavit that a lobbyist — identified elsewhere as Mr. Abramoff — had enlisted Mr. Safavian’s help in trying to gain control of 40 acres of land at the Federal Research Center at White Oak in Silver Spring for a private high school that Mr. Abramoff helped establish.

Mr. Safavian edited a letter that the lobbyist was preparing to send to the GSA and arranged and attended a meeting involving a GSA official, the lobbyist’s wife and others to discuss leasing the property, according to the affidavit.

Mr. Abramoff told his wife to use her maiden name at the meeting because Mr. Safavian sought to play down Mr. Abramoff’s involvement, according to the affidavit.

Mr. Safavian was given clearance to go on the August 2002 golf trip after telling the GSA’s ethics officer that the lobbyist “has no business before GSA,” according to the affidavit.

Nine persons, including Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, made the trip and played golf on the fabled Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. Mr. Safavian paid $3,100 for the travel, “in the exercise of discretion,” he said, as quoted in the affidavit.

Mr. Safavian moved to the Office of Management and Budget last year, becoming the administration’s top procurement official. He resigned from that post, effective Friday, OMB spokesman Alex Conant said.

No one answered the phone at a listing for Mr. Safavian in Alexandria.

Mr. Safavian worked with Mr. Abramoff on the team at the Preston, Gates & Ellis law firm that was lobbying to keep the Northern Mariana Islands free from certain U.S. labor and immigration laws during the last half of the 1990s.

Mr. Abramoff is not named in the affidavit, but two government officials confirmed he is the person referred to in the affidavit as Lobbyist A. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way.

In addition, Mr. Safavian was asked in February for information about the golf trip by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Both the Senate panel and a federal grand jury are investigating deals in which Mr. Abramoff and an associate received at least $66 million from six Indian tribes to lobby for their casinos and other interests.

Separately, Mr. Abramoff has pleaded not guilty to a six-count federal fraud and conspiracy indictment stemming from his role in the 2000 purchase of a fleet of gambling boats in Florida.

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