WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Bush administration official was arrested Monday on charges he made false statements and obstructed a federal investigation into his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to court documents and government officials.
David Safavian, then-chief of staff of the General Services Administration and a former Abramoff lobbying associate, concealed from federal investigators that Abramoff was seeking to do business with GSA when Safavian joined him on a golf trip to Scotland in 2002, according to an FBI affidavit and the officials.
At the time, FBI agent Jeffrey A. Reising said in the affidavit, a lobbyist — identified separately as Abramoff — had enlisted Safavian's help in trying to gain control of 40 acres of land at the Federal Research Center at White Oak in Silver Spring, Md., for a private high school that Abramoff helped establish and supported.
For his part, Safavian edited a letter the lobbyist was preparing to send to GSA, and arranged and attended a meeting involving a GSA official, the lobbyist's wife and others to discuss leasing the property, the affidavit said.
Abramoff told his wife to use her maiden name at the meeting because Safavian sought to play down Abramoff's involvement, the affidavit said, citing an e-mail from Abramoff.
Safavian was given clearance to go on the August 2002 golf trip after telling GSA's ethics officer that the lobbyist "has no business before GSA," the affidavit said.
Nine people, including Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, made the trip and played golf on the fabled Old Course at St. Andrews. Safavian paid $3,100 for the travel, "in the exercise of discretion," he said, as quoted in the affidavit. The total cost was more than $100,000, the affidavit said.
Safavian worked with Abramoff on the team at the Preston, Gates & Ellis law firm that was lobbying to keep the Northern Mariana Islands free from certain U.S. labor and immigration laws during the last half of the 1990s.
Abramoff is not named in the affidavit, but two government officials confirmed he is the person referred to in the affidavit as Lobbyist A. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way.
In addition, Safavian was asked in February for information about the golf trip by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Both the Senate panel and a federal grand jury are investigating deals in which Abramoff and an associate received at least $66 million from six Indian tribes to lobby for their casinos and other interests. The tribes question whether the charges were excessive.
Congressional Democrats have raised questions about Abramoff's ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. The congressman has asked the House Ethics Committee to review allegations that Abramoff or his clients paid some of DeLay's overseas travel expenses. DeLay has denied knowing that the expenses were paid by the lobbyist.
Separately, Abramoff has pleaded innocent to a six-count federal fraud and conspiracy indictment stemming from his role in the 2000 purchase of a fleet of gambling boats in Florida.