Jack Abramoff developed contacts with high-level officials in government whom he referred to as “champions”, according to Neil Volz, the former chief of staff to Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) who testified against David Safavian, a former “champion”. Volz, who left Ney’s office to work for Abramoff and recently pled guilty to a number of charges, also provided details of the attempted purchases of the Old Post Office Building and land in Maryland. In those details the case against Bob Ney begins to unfold:

Safavian, who formerly worked with Abramoff, arrived at GSA as chief of staff in May 2002. He and Abramoff began e-mailing each other about two properties controlled by the GSA. One was land in White Oak, in Montgomery County, where Abramoff hoped to relocate a Jewish academy he founded.

On advice from Safavian, Volz said, the lobbyists first tried to insert language in an election reform bill. “We had a champion in the Congress who had already agreed to attach another provision,” Volz testified, identifying the lawmaker as “Congressman Ney.” Ney had agreed to try to add language to the same bill that would have aided a Texas Indian tribe represented by Abramoff.

When that did not work, Volz said, Ney told him of another “potential vehicle” on the legislative agenda, a line of questioning U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman cut off as “hearsay” evidence. Volz sought help in receiving information on the land from GSA through an inquiry by the chief of staff to Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), but backed off when the GSA asked Capito’s office why she wanted the information.

The second property Abramoff sought was the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Abramoff, with a tribal client, wanted to convert it into a luxury hotel and sought to have GSA tailor the bid specifications to the advantage of the tribe. “We were trying to rig the rule so our client could get the best chance,” Volz said.

He and Williams solicited letters to GSA from Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), though in the end their efforts were not “the golden plan we were hoping for,” Volz said. Nonetheless, he said, Safavian “concurred with my advice that it was better to have the letter from the Hill before the bid was set.”

The prize for being an Abramoff “champion” looks pretty bad. I mean who wants to win a federal investigation of your activities by an aggressive Public Integrity Unit. That’s a bad prize.