E-Mails Detail Dealings of Safavian and Abramoff

By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 16, 2006

At 8:37 p.m. July 27, 2002, a Saturday night, Jack Abramoff sent two e-mails to David H. Safavian, the newly appointed chief of staff at the General Services Administration.

One message went to Safavian's government e-mail address. "Superb!!" Abramoff wrote, expressing his delight that Safavian had been cleared by the GSA's general counsel to go on a golfing trip to Scotland.

The second message, sent to Safavian's personal e-mail, read: "If you can spare a moment, please let me know where I can call you this weekend. If not, chat on Monday. Regards."

The next day, a series of e-mail exchanges between Abramoff and Safavian show that the lobbyist wanted Safavian's advice on how to word a letter to the GSA, seeking use of facilities at the former Naval Surface Weapons Research Center in Silver Spring for a private school Abramoff and his wife had founded. "How about this?" Abramoff asked Safavian in an e-mail with a draft of the letter.

Abramoff was determined to keep his involvement in the project secret from GSA officials. "Do not allow . . . my name to appear anywhere," Abramoff wrote to a colleague at his then-law firm, Greenberg Traurig. He e-mailed his wife: "When you are in the room with David and the other GSA folks, identify yourself as Pam Alexander or Pam Clarke. David [Safavian] does not want Abramoff used in the meeting."

Federal prosecutors released hundreds of e-mails on Friday evening to support charges that Safavian lied to federal officials by failing to disclose Abramoff's business dealings with GSA.

On Jan. 3 this year, Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials.

Safavian's lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, charged that the public filing of the e-mails amounted to a "press release" designed to pressure her client to cooperate with the Justice Department.

Whether or not the e-mails are allowed into evidence, they document a collapse of traditional borders separating lobbyists seeking favored treatment and the government officials, including members of Congress, empowered to make decisions with millions of dollars riding on the outcome.

Interwoven with the flow of e-mails are discussions of such matters as the interests of Abramoff's Indian tribe clients in converting a part of the old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue into a hotel and in qualifying for special bidding status as "8a" minority contractors. In the e-mails, Safavian and Abramoff also plan parties at Abramoff's restaurants Signatures and Stacks, weekday golf games, the Scotland trip and racquetball.

On Jan. 15, 2003, for example, Abramoff invited Safavian to join him at a weekend golf tournament in Florida. Safavian wrote back: "Wish I could, but you know I am a hard working civil servant, and I have the people's business to do." Abramoff replied, "That is indeed true!"

The next day, Abramoff was back to business. "In order to get around the need for the 8a company to be in business for a few years, we need to involve in the company those with the skill sets and government experience. Consequently, my guys are asking me to find out the first four or five contracts we might be competing for. Can you get me that info really fast?" Abramoff asked Safavian.

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