E-Mail Trail From Abramoff Included GSA Bargain Hunting

The GSA's David Safavian traded messages with the now-disgraced lobbyist about business issues and recreation.
The GSA's David Safavian traded messages with the now-disgraced lobbyist about business issues and recreation. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 27, 2006

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff gained renown in Washington for both his big fees and his big spending, but that didn't mean he couldn't look for a bargain.

On Aug. 21, 2002, he sent an e-mail to his friend David H. Safavian, chief of staff at the General Services Administration. "I have a need to buy a stretch limo for the restaurant," Abramoff wrote, referring to Signatures, the downtown establishment he owned. "Are there any coming up on any of the GSA drug property sales?"

Safavian, according to the documents recently filed by Justice Department prosecutors at U.S. District Court, wrote back that the GSA does not auction off seized cars. But he added that he was ready to help: "Let me call a friend at the Marshall's Service. They handle drug seizures."

Abramoff replied: "I was thinking of the druggies bounty. No problem. Thanks, see you Friday."

Safavian has been charged with lying to federal officials about Abramoff's interest in doing business with the GSA to gain approval from GSA ethics officials to take a week-long golfing trip to Scotland.

Prosecutors have been releasing hundreds of pages of e-mails between Safavian, Abramoff and other figures in their investigation. Safavian's attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, contends the documents amount to a "press release" with no legal purpose except to pressure her client to give up asserting his innocence. In addition to looking for bargains, a constant theme in the hundreds of e-mails filed with the court is Abramoff's request to play racquetball or golf. Abramoff, however, spent a large portion of his time at Signatures putting together real estate and lobbying deals involving such interests as the Mississippi Choctaw Indians, Unisys Corp. and Tyco International Ltd. Those meals took their toll.

On Dec. 23, 2002, Safavian e-mailed Abramoff to ask about a lunch date the next day. "Just lunch or lunch and rb [racquetball] or just rb? -- You tell me. I can do either."

Abramoff wrote back: "Well. I am such a sweltering hog, that perhaps just lunch, though I will bring my stuff downtown and, if I feel I won't keel over with a heart attack, and you are still in the mood, we can do both. I am telling you, I have never been so fat. Never."

Abramoff has pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. He is cooperating with prosecutors and is expected to be a witness at Safavian's trial, which is scheduled to begin May 22.

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