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Safavian ripples

The ripples coming from the arrest of former OPFF administrator David Safavian have already started. The NYT reports this morning that the case has spilled over into the issue about how to investigate the government's response to Katrina.

Congressional Democrats said on Tuesday that the arrest of a former senior White House budget official involved in organizing the federal response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the need for an independent investigation of the government's reaction to the disaster, especially since the official is married to a leading Republican Congressional aide...

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, said the arrest of Mr. Safavian undermined the credibility of a House Republican plan to investigate the troubled hurricane-relief effort through a committee to be led by Representative Thomas M. Davis III, Republican of Virginia. Mr. Safavian's wife, Jennifer, is chief counsel for oversight and investigations on the House Government Reform Committee, which Mr. Davis leads.

"Spouses are not responsible for their counterpart's activities," Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference. "But I do say when there is a direct link to the White House and procurement and the investigation that this committee is supposed to conduct, then I think that really shatters all sense of confidence."

Meanwhile, the NYT also reports that Safavian's attorney is accusing the Justice Department of "trying to coerce Mr. Safavian into cooperating with a criminal investigation of Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful Washington lobbyist."

In an interview, Ms. Van Gelder described as a "stretch" the central charge against Mr. Safavian: that he lied when he asserted to investigators that Mr. Abramoff had no business with the General Services Administration in 2002.

She suggested that while Mr. Safavian might have talked with Mr. Abramoff about the lobbyist's interest that year in acquiring two parcels of federal land, the conversations did not constitute "business." Mr. Abramoff never bought the properties.

"I don't believe that setting up meetings to figure out whether or not there is property available is doing business," Ms. Van Gelder said, adding that the charges against Mr. Safavian and the unusual circumstances of his arrest amounted to a "creative use of the criminal code to try to coerce cooperation."

Finally, the WP reports that Safavian's confirmation was held up because of his lobbying for foreign clients.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee held up Safavian's nomination for more than a year, in part because of lawmakers' concerns about lobbying work for two men later accused of links to suspected terrorist organizations, according to committee documents. Safavian did not disclose his firm's representation of the men until questioned in writing by the committee's staff, and initially failed to tell the panel he had registered as a foreign agent for two controversial African regimes.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Sep 22, 2005 at 12:14 PM


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