Sen. D’Amato Says Biaggi Wasn’t Reason He Helped Wedtech
NEW YORK (AP) _ Sen. Alfonse D’Amato testified Friday that Rep. Mario Biaggi asked him to lobby the Pentagon on behalf of the Wedtech Corp. but that he would have helped the company even if he had never met Biaggi.
D’Amato, a prosecution witness at the racketeering trial of Biaggi and six others, conceded that he or his staff wrote and called Army and Small Business Administration officials on behalf of the now-bankrupt Bronx defense contractor.
The Republican Senator from New York, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, also said Biaggi had contacted him as many as eight times on Wedtech’s behalf.
Prosecutors have charged that Biaggi, a Bronx Democrat, extorted cash and stock from scandal-plagued Wedtech in return for his influence on Capitol Hill. Asked if he would have helped Wedtech if he knew Biaggi held stock in the company, D’Amato replied: ″I don’t know. I think it would’ve given me pause to reflect.″
D’Amato also testified that he arranged a White House meeting through a top aide to Attorney General Edwin Meese III - who was then presidential counselor - among Army, SBA and Wedtech officials to help Wedtech obtain a multimillion- dollar small-engine contract. The Army had been opposed to Wedtech getting the contract.
Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward J.M. Little if Wedtech got the Army contract after that meeting, D’Amato replied: ″Essentially, yes.″
On cross-examination by Biaggi lawyer James LaRossa, D’Amato said his office prided itself on helping constituent companies cut through red tape. He also said he assisted Wedtech because he believed the company was not being treated fairly by the Army.
″And you would have done that if you never met Mario Biaggi?″ asked LaRossa.
″That is correct,″ said D’Amato.
Biaggi and six others are accused of turning Wedtech into a racketeering enterprise that made millions of dollars in payoffs to obtain no-bid government contracts.
Prosecutors contend Biaggi and some of the other defendants helped Wedtech illegally obtain SBA approval to participate in a program that set aside contracts - without competitive bidding - for minority-controlled businesses.