James E. Jenkins, an aide to then-presidential counselor Edwin Meese III, "wanted to orchestrate" the award of a defense contract to Wedtech Corp. when he convened a White House meeting in May 1982, the Army's top procurement official testified yesterday.
The meeting called by Jenkins "changed the course" of the Army's unwillingness to grant Wedtech the no-bid contract, Assistant Army Secretary Jay Raymond Sculley said at the conflict-of-interest trial of former White House political director Lyn Nofziger in U.S. District Court here.
In other testimony, former budget director David A. Stockman described a directive signed by President Reagan in 1982 expressing continued support for production of a warplane made by a company that Nofziger was representing.
Stockman said Reagan signed the memo to gain support for a $98.3 billion tax increase from several Republican members of Congress seeking to save the A10 antitank plane.
Nofziger is accused of improperly lobbying National Security Council officials on behalf of Fairchild Republic Corp., which made the A10, a month after Reagan signed the directive dated Aug. 20, 1982.
On the Wedtech contract, Sculley said the Army had decided to remove the small-engine contract from a set-aside program for minority businesses and solicit competitive bids because the company's $39 million price was too high.
But at the White House meeting May 19, Jenkins and others said "placement of this contract in the South Bronx would provide livelihood to a larger number of people and keep a campaign promise" Reagan made in 1980 to help the economically devastated area of New York City, Sculley said.
"Clearly he wanted to orchestrate an award to Welbilt," Sculley said, referring to the company by its former name, Welbilt Electronic Die Corp. The bankrupt Bronx company is the focus of a widening influence-peddling scandal.
Jenkins, who later went to work for Wedtech, at the time was chief aide to Meese. Meese, now attorney general, is expected to testify this week about a Nofziger memo written to him, dated April 8, 1982, and saying "it would be a blunder" not to give Wedtech the contract.
Nofziger, 63, is accused of four counts of improperly lobbying former colleagues on behalf of Wedtech, Fairchild and another client within a year of leaving Reagan's staff.
His business partner, Mark A. Bragg, 42, is charged with aiding and abetting a contact by Nofziger with Jenkins. Each charge carries a two-year sentence and a $10,000 fine.