ANNAPOLIS, OCT. 13 -- The chief campaign aide to Rep. Roy P. Dyson (D-Md.) said today that an FBI affidavit linking the representative to a circle of consultants, some of whom have been convicted of influence peddling, reflects lobbyists' trying to exaggerate their power rather than unethical behavior by Dyson.
Christopher Robinson also said that the information in the affidavit, reported today in the Baltimore Sun and which he has not reviewed, does not indicate Dyson has done anything wrong.
"It is not unusual for the congressman to contact someone and say some progress has been made" on an issue, Robinson said, referring to a reported call from Dyson to a Unisys Corp. representative about a company contract. "It is not unusual for a lobbyist to exaggerate until the cows come home . . . . Those same lobbyists probably referred to every member of the House Armed Services Committee as if they were a close friend."
Dyson, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was never cited as a target of the "Ill Wind" Pentagon contracting probe that led to the conviction of 39 individuals and corporations.
But the affidavit, developed from federal wiretaps, portrays Dyson as a man regarded by Unisys consultants as a dependable vote interested in corporate largesse as much as defense issues.
The affidavit relates a March 14, 1988, conversation in which Unisys consultant Charles F. Gardner tells former company executive William Roberts that there was $95,000, presumably in campaign contributions, "to take care of any Dysons or anything like that" as the company fought for continued purchases of a radar system spurned by the Navy as obsolete.
Dyson, apparently regarded by Unisys officials as a floor leader who would "call the shots" in the fight for the contract, phoned a Unisys representative on March 30, 1988, to assure Roberts that "his amendment passed and everything's okay" for the government's continued purchase of the Unisys Coherent Radar Transmitter System.
Three weeks later, according to the Sun's account of the affidavit, Gardner told another consultant that Dyson "would get 20 like last year," referring to $17,000 contributed to Dyson's campaign in 1987.
The affidavit was released through a lawsuit brought by the Long Island-based Newsday newspaper and in one passage quotes Gardner referring to a 1988 corporate-sponsored trip by Dyson to a Unisys facility in New York.
"They don't even want to see the plant . . . . They really want a weekend in New York," Gardner is quoted as saying.
Dyson narrowly won reelection in 1988 at the height of disclosures about his involvement with consultants implicated in the contracting probe and his receipt of tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the defense industry. He is facing a tough race again with the same Republican opponent, Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Marine veteran who is trying to contrast Dyson's hawkishness in Congress, pushing for weapons systems that even the Pentagon doesn't want, with his record as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War.
It was on the Unisys-sponsored trip to New York in May 1988 that Dyson's longtime chief of staff, Thomas M. Pappas, leaped from a New York hotel room, touching off further scrutiny of the congressman's record.
On a similar excursion the year before, Dyson received $17,000 in what turned out to be illegal campaign contributions arranged by Gardner, one of 39 people and corporations found guilty in the contracting probe. Gardner received a 32-month prison sentence.
Dyson said a week after Gardner was sentenced in fall 1989 that he did not know the contributions, presented to him as individual donations, had been improperly underwritten by the company. At a news conference, he said his involvement in the scheme had been innocent and announced he was returning the money.