By James V. Grimaldi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 19, 2009 4:00 PM
The Justice Department has cleared a former top Senate staffer of any wrongdoing in connection with accepting more than $10,000 in sports tickets from former powerhouse lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the man's attorney said Thursday.
Lobbyist Kevin H. Koonce, 38, was investigated for allegedly accepting tickets, meals and drinks in exchange for official actions by the office of Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). Koonce served as Gregg's legislative director and counsel for two years, until 2004.
Koonce was told Thursday that the Justice Department has decided not to pursue any charges against him, according to his attorneys Joshua Berman and Glen Donath of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.
News of the Koonce investigation was reported by The Washington Post in February, while Gregg was briefly President Obama's nominee for secretary of commerce. Gregg, who said he was told he was not the target of the investigation, later asked the president to withdraw his nomination for unrelated reasons.
The alleged activities involving Koonce were in a document accompanying the plea agreement of Todd A. Boulanger, who admitted to honest-services violations earlier this year. Koonce was identified as "Staffer F" in court records, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity while the investigation was underway.
Boulanger turned to Staffer F in 2002 to tap into Gregg's position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to help preserve a $3.5 million earmark for a client.
In 2003, Staffer F asked to "score some hockey tickets." Boulanger complied and told Staffer F: "This is without a doubt the most in-demand game of the season. . . . You, my friend, are in debt to me for a while!"
Staffer F replied: "You the man. I got something for you, too."