A golf outing trips up a widening circle of power brokers.
By Michael Isikoff
Oct. 3, 2005 issue - David Safavian wasn't expecting visitors. A relatively senior White House official—he oversaw federal contracts for the Office of Management and Budget—the 38-year-old Safavian had been working around the clock on Katrina relief. But at 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 19, a team of FBI agents showed up at his house and arrested him. The Feds wanted to know if Safavian would be willing to cooperate in an ongoing corruption probe surrounding his friend, lobbyist Jack Abramoff. According to Safavian's lawyer, no deal was struck. Safavian was then charged with lying to the FBI and obstructing an investigation.
Safavian's arrest is the most dramatic sign yet that the long-running Justice probe is gathering momentum. Safavian's misfortune, one shared by many in Washington, was his relationship with Abramoff, the brash GOP superlobbyist known for his close ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Abramoff, recently indicted in Miami on wire-fraud charges (he pleaded not guilty), stands accused in Senate testimony of cheating his Indian-casino clients out of tens of millions of dollars in fees that he allegedly diverted to personal and political causes. Safavian's dealings with Abramoff, and new documents reviewed by NEWSWEEK, may add to the unseemly picture.
Cool and cocky, Safavian had been one of Abramoff's lobbying partners. He joined the Bush administration in 2002, as chief of staff of the General Services Administration. According to the Feds' complaint, Abramoff invited Safavian to participate in a trip to Scotland that summer to play golf at the world-famous St. Andrews course. Total tab: $100,000. Safavian received prior approval from his agency's ethics officer. But the Feds say he had neglected to mention that Abramoff at the time was seeking to lease property from the GSA and had sought Safavian's help.