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Safavian... back in the news

We haven't heard much about David Safavian in awhile as everybody was focused on bigger fish. But the latest on this case actually touches on our world. Here is the story from the WP on Saturday:

U.S. Says Abramoff Tipped Tyco to GSA Move [WP, 1.28.2006]

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave his client Tyco International an early warning in 2003 that the government was about to suspend Tyco's federal contracts -- inside information he received from a General Services Administration official now under indictment, federal prosecutors alleged yesterday.

David H. Safavian, who has been charged with obstructing the Abramoff corruption investigation, alerted Abramoff in November 2003 that the GSA was about to suspend the contracts of four Tyco subsidiaries, prosecutors said in court papers. Safavian provided "sensitive and confidential information" about internal GSA deliberations, as well as advice about how to get around the suspension, the prosecutors said....

George Terwilliger, Tyco's attorney, said yesterday that Abramoff's tip was of substantial benefit to Tyco but was unsolicited. Tyco's senior lawyer, Timothy Flanigan, contacted the GSA and "asked for an opportunity to address the suspension issue on the merits," Tyco said in a statement yesterday.

Safavian's attorney's response:

Barbara Van Gelder, Safavian's attorney, was critical of the filing. "This is really trash-talk trial tactics on the part of the government. It's designed to muddy David's reputation, to try to link him to other investigations. . . . It has no relevance at all to this case."

In the summer and fall of 2002, Safavian also guided Abramoff regarding a policy issue of interest to his tribal clients, who wanted to invest in the Old Post Office building in downtown Washington, according to charging papers filed with Safavian's indictment.

At the same time, Abramoff's associate Neil Volz approached two members of Congress -- House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio) -- and asked if they could write a letter on the policy. On Sept. 12, Young and LaTourette sent the letter to the head of the GSA. The existence of the letter was first noted in charging papers last year, but the identify of the authors was reported by the newspaper Roll Call this week.

LaTourette's spokeswoman said the letter reflected her boss's policy priorities for boosting small businesses. Young's spokesman did not answer questions.

Just a point of fact: Safavian was NOT the OFPP administrator at the time. He was not confirmed as OFPP administrator until 2004, although he was nominated in November 2003... and he has been a senior person at GSA.

Just an aside on this whole Safavian issue, but the charges are not related to his tenure at the White House. It has become shorthand to just say the White House procurement czar was arrested, but the charges (so far) are not related to procurement, the above story not withstanding. Case in point: Senate minority leader Harry Reid's appearance recently on PBS's NewsHour:

We have for the first time in 135 years, someone who works in the White House indicted. Safavian, who is in charge of government contracting, the president appointed him, hundreds of billions of dollars a year, led away in handcuffs because of sweetheart deals he had with Jack Abramoff and then you have, as has been talked about earlier in your program, the K Street Project.

It is this connection -- linking procurement to corruption -- that is just unfair and hurts government agencies ability to carry out their missions. In fact, the charges against Safavian are in connection with his tenure with GSA and they have nothing to do with procurement whatsoever. And it may seem like a small detail, but, especially when put into the kind of context as Reid did, it is disheartening to those who are doing the good work.

It is lazy and inaccurate. And you wonder why it is difficult to do innovative things such as share-in-savings? This sure is at least part of the reason.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jan 31, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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