The second bribery and conspiracy trial of D.C. businessman John B. Clyburn got underway in federal court yesterday, as prosecutors told a jury that Clyburn and former federal housing official James E. Baugh conspired to steer a $400,000 federal contract to Clyburn's company.

The case follows Clyburn's acquittal in July in another bribery and conspiracy case. His codefendant, former D.C. Department of Human Services head David E. Rivers, also was acquitted.

According to the indictment against Clyburn and Baugh, issued on May 10, 1989, Baugh helped Clyburn get a $400,000 HUD contract to provide management consulting to the Columbus, Ohio, public housing authority.

Among other things, prosecutors allege that Baugh restricted the bidding to minority contractors, put one of his aides on the bid evaluation panel and gave Clyburn inside information to help him land the contract.

In exchange, the indictment alleges, Clyburn paid thousands of dollars to Baugh's wife, Veatrice, and helped her get a $45,000 contract with the D.C. Department of Employment Services. That contract was to help train people to be travel agents.

Both cases against Clyburn stemmed from a 17-month FBI investigation that involved wiretaps on Clyburn's phone and bugging devices in his K Street NW office. The investigation became public in May 1987 and prompted criticism from Mayor Marion Barry that then-U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova was abusing his authority and leaking information about the probe to the media. DiGenova denied Barry's assertions.

Undeterred by Clyburn's acquittal two months ago, prosecutors are proceeding with their second case against him. Yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Blanche Bruce told the jury that the relationship between Clyburn and Baugh was a classic example of "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours."

Baugh is the former general deputy assistant secretary for public and Indian housing at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a post that made him the nation's second-highest-ranking public housing official.

"When you decide to scratch the back of a public official, and he knows you're trying to influence him, you've committed bribery," Bruce said. "A government official is not in the same category as a friend or a business associate, not when you deal with tax dollars."

Bruce told the jury that Clyburn gave Veatrice Baugh cheap office space inside his office suite and paid her $1,000 a month to do consulting work for his firm, Decision Information Systems Corp (DISC).

But James Baugh's attorney, R. Kenneth Mundy -- who represented Barry in his recent drug trial -- told the jury that "the only thing Mr. Baugh was guilty of was functioning as . . . a conscientious public official," and that nothing in the way DISC got the HUD contract was abnormal.

In addition, Mundy said, Veatrice Baugh netted only $3,000 from the $45,000 city contract Clyburn helped her compete for.

Thomas Dyson, who represents Clyburn, told the jury that his client won the HUD contract honestly.

"They {DISC} had a track record," Dyson said. "They were known and they had a good reputation . . . . Mr. Baugh did not tilt the scales in favor of DISC."

Clyburn's business relationship with Baugh's wife was part of his effort to help struggling minority businesses, Dyson said, adding that Clyburn "ran a halfway house" for those businesses, in part because he hoped that his partnership with them would eventually be profitable.

"{What} Mr. Clyburn was doing with Veatrice Baugh was not illegal, it was not improper, and it was something he had done with a number of other people," Dyson said. The trial is expected to last about eight weeks.