Letter About Wedtech Contract Delivered To White House Aide
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A letter about Wedtech Corp.’s proposed defense contract was drafted for Lyn C. Nofziger’s signature and later delivered to a senior White House aide, according to testimony Tuesday at the former presidential adviser’s ethics-law trial.
Told that Wedtech needed a statement of the Army’s intent to grant it the contract, Nofziger’s partner, Mark A. Bragg, replied ″that a letter under Lyn’s signature was needed to be executed in order to accomplish this,″ said lobbyist Stephen Denlinger.
Bragg later decided the letter bearing Nofziger’s signature should be sent to James E. Jenkins, a top aide to then-presidential counselor Edwin Meese III, who is now attorney general.
Denlinger said Wedtech needed the Army’s letter of intent for its application to obtain government financing to refurbish a manufacturing plant where it planned to make 13,000 standard military gasoline engines.
″A letter was needed by Mr. Nofziger to get things going,″ Denlinger said, recalling his conversations with Bragg in late May 1982.
At the time, Bragg was traveling on the West Coast and Denlinger said the two men drafted the letter over the telephone.
Denlinger, former president of a trade association that represented Wedtech, testified that he made several drafts of the letter and took a final version to the offices of Nofziger-Bragg Communications for it to be typed on the firm’s letterhead and signed by Nofziger.
When told it was ready, Denlinger said he picked up the letter and delivered it to the White House mailroom.
Nofziger, 63, former White House political director, is charged with four counts of improperly lobbying presidential aides within a year of leaving President Reagan’s staff in early 1982.
Bragg, 42, is charged with aiding and abetting one of the alleged contacts - the May 28, 1982 letter to Jenkins.
The defense contends Nofziger never signed the letter and prosecutors did not attempt to have Denlinger identify the signature on the document as the defendant’s.
An FBI documents expert who examined the letter last year has been unable to positively identify the handwritten ″Lyn″ as Nofziger’s signature, according to court papers.
But Denlinger denied he penned Nofziger’s signature. Nancy Guiden, a secretary whose initials are at the bottom of the document next to Nofziger’s, testified earlier that she never signed correspondence for Nofziger without his permission.
Denlinger conceded he did not know firsthand that Nofziger actually signed the letter.
But he also identified a June 3, 1982, letter Bragg sent to James Sanders, head of the Small Business Administration, saying ″this note is to follow up Lyn Nofziger’s letter to Jim Jenkins last week.″
Denlinger said a secretary was authorized by Bragg to sign his name to that letter.
The SBA administered a program for minority businesses under which Wedtech was trying to get the Army contract. The company was seeking financing through SBA and other government agencies.
Wedtech, now the focus of a widening influence-peddling scandal, was awarded the contract for $32 million over Army objections following intervention by the White House.
Denlinger said he was ″very dejected″ by an April 15, 1982, letter from the Army indicating it was withdrawing the engine contract from the SBA’s set- aside program for minority business and put it up for competitive bidding.
But he said Bragg told him ″I didn’t really have to worry about the content″ of the Army’s letter because ″there were other things that I didn’t know about that maybe were a little bit more optimistic.″
Prosecutors have introduced in evidence a letter Nofziger wrote to Meese April 8, 1982, suggesting he recruit Reagan in the effort to overcome Army objections to the contract.
On cross-examination, Denlinger conceded that he pocketed $10,000 in cash that Wedtech gave him to bribe an SBA official.
″We didn’t discuss it again,″ said Denlinger, who has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in connection with offering to make the payment.
″So you said I’m going to pay so and so $10,000 and you took the cash and you never discussed it again,″ said Bragg’s attorney, Richard Ben-Veniste.
″That’s correct, I don’t believe I ever did,″ Denlinger said.
Asked if he thought Wedtech officials concluded he had paid the bribe, Denlinger said: ″They were left with that impression.″
″And you put it in your pocket?″ Ben-Veniste said.
″Yes,″ Denlinger replied.