Two wireless companies have revised statements about their role in a controversial telecommunications contract that was awarded by a key congressman to a company linked to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Administration Committee, awarded the $3 million contract in 2002 to Foxcom Wireless to install antennas for cell phone access in the House office buildings. The contract came after Foxcom had made a $50,000 donation to Abramoff's Capital Athletic Foundation, which a year later paid for a golfing trip Ney took to Scotland with the lobbyist.
Before announcing his decision, Ney conducted an advisory poll of six major wireless companies to choose between Foxcom, an Israeli start-up telecommunications firm, and LGC Wireless, a more-established rival based in San Jose.
Five of those companies told The Washington Post for an Oct. 18 article that they had expressed no preference in the competition. The Post obtained a letter written by a sixth company that also expressed no preference.
Yesterday, however, Cingular Wireless said that "a Cingular representative apparently did indicate support for Foxcom." Also, a former official for Sprint has told lawyers at the successor company, Sprint Nextel Inc., that she voted for Foxcom. Both companies said they had investigated the vote further after Ney's office contacted them when the Post story was published.
The Cingular official in charge of the issue previously did not remember voting for Foxcom, spokesman Alexa Kaufman said. Sprint Nextel spokeswoman Lisa Malloy said company lawyers have been unable to find records to substantiate the Foxcom vote. The reason for a lack of documentation was that the contract was between the House and Foxcom, now known as MobileAccess, and "we did not make the [final] decision," Malloy said.
Wireless company officials said they usually remain neutral in choosing between the antenna companies because they both perform competent work.
Ney spokesman Brian Walsh noted that the balloting was not required. "As chairman, Ney had the unilateral authority to choose this vendor himself," Walsh said. "No selection process was even necessary."
-- James V. Grimaldi