Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Abramoff Scandal Brings Down Former Bush Administration Official

As William Branigin reports in the Washington Post, David Safavian was found guilty today on four felony charges of obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators about his relationship with former lobbyist and corruption king Jack Abramoff.

Safavian, a former lobbyist himself, became the chief of staff at the General Services Administration (GSA) in 2002. The GSA is the property management agency of the federal government.

Abramoff sought Safavian's help in obtaining two federal buildings in the Washington D.C. area for one of Abramoff's clients. Around the same time, Safavian accompanied Abramoff, Congressman Bob Ney, and other staffers and lobbyists on a lavish golf trip to Scotland, all on Abramoff's dime.

Federal law currently prohibits federal officials and staffers from accepting travel paid for by lobbyists. This no doubt contributed to Safavian's decision to lie to GSA and other federal investigators when asked about the trip and his efforts to help Abramoff obtain the federal properties.

In 2003, Safavian was nominated by President Bush to serve as the chief procurement officer at the Office of Federal Management and Budget, a position from which he has since resigned.

Each count on which Safavian was convicted today carries a maximum sentence of five years and $250,000 fine, which means Safavian may be looking at as much as 20 years in the pokey, where no doubt his procurement skills will be highly valued. How many cigarettes do you think a trip to Scotland costs?

While our justice system is slowly but to date effectively working its way through the Abramoff and other corruption investigations, our legislative branch continues to flounder. In a moment of high disdain for democracy and the current public disaffection with government, Congress is preparing to pass a bill which would sanction travel by members of Congress and their staffers paid for by private interests.

This is the Congressional response to the Abramoff scandal - legitimize the very techniques he used to corrupt both process and person alike.

This effort is backed by Republican and Democrat alike, further proving that when it comes to screwing over the American people in favor of wealthy interests, the political parties get along just fine thank you very much. The rest of us should expect the number of "educational" and "fact-finding" trips to Oahu and other hotbeds of policy debate to multiply in the years ahead.

And if a corporate lobbyist or two just happen to be sitting next to a Member of Congress on the plane as they fly to a resort on the corporate dime - well, hell: that's just democracy.

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