An Oct. 18 article incorrectly reported that Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) defeated an incumbent Democrat in 1994. It should have said Ney replaced a retiring Democrat.
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Lawmaker's Abramoff Ties Investigated
Contract for Foxcom
In the late 1990s, members of Congress became increasingly frustrated at the lack of cell phone coverage inside the Capitol and its nearby office buildings.
The House decided to let the major wireless companies select -- and pay for -- a company to install antennas for cellular phones. In 1999, AT&T Wireless had asked LGC Wireless of San Jose to work with the House bureaucracy to put the antennas and repeaters into House buildings. The project was one of the largest of its kind, worth more than $3 million.
At the time, LGC was the world's leading provider of such equipment and had wired the headquarters of most cellular phone companies, including Nextel and AT&T. During the next year, LGC worked with the architect of the Capitol and the House Information Resources office to develop a plan.
Then Foxcom Wireless, an Israeli start-up telecommunications firm, entered the picture. Foxcom, which has since moved headquarters from Jerusalem to Vienna, Va., and been renamed MobileAccess Networks, lobbied for the job.
In early 2001, Ney took charge of the House Administration Committee, which was ultimately responsible for the antenna job. Sometime that year, exactly when is unclear, Foxcom donated $50,000 to the Capitol Athletic Foundation, Abramoff's charity. Foxcom officials have declined to be interviewed about the donation or the wireless project. A spokesman for Foxcom, now MobileAccess, referred all questions Monday to Ney's committee.
Also that same year, a decision was delayed on the antennas, which caught House staff by surprise.
"We were really surprised, given all the work we put in with LGC in designing the system," said Henry F. "Bud" Collins Jr., the senior network systems engineer for the House. "Then, all of a sudden this other company showed up. We had to go through this whole thing again."
LGC Chief Operating Officer Alex Gray wrote to Ney to complain about the "highly politicized selection process" that favored the Israeli company despite the House's "Buy American" posture. "Only Foxcom was permitted a full and fair hearing on the merits of its proposal -- essentially a 'back room' deal based on political expediency alone," Gray wrote.
Assistant House Counsel Carolyn Betz, replying on behalf of Ney, said in a letter to LGC that in the fall of 2001 the major wireless companies were receiving ballots to vote on who should get the contract.
In a letter to Betz, LGC president and chief executive Ian Sugarbroad called the election process "deeply flawed and unfair." He said each wireless company was sent a ballot and allowed to vote for LGC, Foxcom or "no preference." There were no details on the bid proposals, such as cost, security features, band capacity or critical performance metrics, Sugarbroad said.
Brian Walsh, Ney's spokesman, provided The Post redacted copies of the ballots. Three show checkmarks in a box next to Foxcom. The other three ballots are marked "no preference."
But representatives of all six companies said they voted no preference, according to interviews and documents. Five of them were interviewed by The Post, and the sixth made its preference known in a letter obtained by The Post.
Spokesmen for the companies -- Cingular, Nextel, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless and Voicestream -- said they remained neutral because both LGC and Foxcom were considered capable of doing the job.
Walsh said those statements are "an absolute contradiction to the documentation."
Ney awarded the license to Foxcom on Nov. 26, 2002, Walsh said. He declined to make public a copy of documents relating to the agreement, noting that the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to Congress. He noted that the work was paid for by the wireless companies and not by Congress, and he pointed out that the Senate also chose Foxcom.
LGC had no right to appeal. "This is not a traditional House procurement and, thus, House procurement policies do not apply," Betz stated in her letter to LGC.
Collins, the House engineer who has since retired, said, "It almost seemed like the cards were stacked for them."
After the contract was awarded, Foxcom listed Abramoff as its lobbyist. Over the next two years, Foxcom paid Abramoff's team $280,000.
Researcher Alice Crites and database editor Derek Willis contributed to this report.