Court Papers Say Meese Aide Wrote Letter for Wedtech
WASHINGTON (AP) _ An aide to Attorney General Edwin Meese III in 1982 was so involved in helping Wedtech Corp. obtain a no-bid Army contract that he dictated a letter for the company’s lobbyists to send to government officials, according to court documents.
James E. Jenkins, Meese’s deputy when the attorney general was White House counselor, suggested in 1982 that Wedtech lobbyists write a letter to several government agencies to help demonstrate the company’s financial ability to perform the contract, lawyers for lobbyist Mark Bragg said in the papers filed Wednesday.
Jenkins then dictated the letter, which was sent back to him, the Army and the Small Business Administration, the papers say.
Wedtech won the $32 million no-bid contract despite concerns expressed by Army officials that the company did not have the financial ability to complete the project.
Bragg, a partner of former White House aide Lyn C. Nofziger, is charged with aiding and abetting Nofziger’s alleged violation of federal ethics laws by lobbying Jenkins on behalf of Wedtech.
The indictment returned last summer charges that Bragg directed Nofziger to contact Jenkins and that the letter, signed by Nofziger, was sent the next day.
The defense contends that Jenkins’ involvement in drafting the May 28, 1982 letter invalidates the charge that Bragg aided and abetted Nofziger’s contact with Jenkins.
″How can a person be influenced by a letter he himself composed?″ defense attorney Richard Ben-Veniste said at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Thomas Flannery, who reserved decision on the motion.
Prosecutors said Jenkins never suggested to them that he had dictated the letter.
Ben-Veniste said his motion was based on an interview he conducted earlier this week with Jenkins in Washington. Jenkins’ attorney, Fritz-Alan Korth, did not return telephone calls seeking comment on the motion.
The account Ben-Veniste said he received from Jenkins differs from Meese’s contention that he ordered his White House staff to ensure that Wedtech simply receive a ″fair hearing″ for its proposal.
Meese’s efforts on behalf of Wedtech are being investigated by independent counsel James McKay to determine if any laws were broken.
Jenkins, who convened a 1982 meeting of government officials on the Wedtech contract, went to work for the company in 1986.
The Bronx, N.Y., company, which was known in 1982 as Welbilt Electronic Die Corp., is the center of an influence-peddling scandal. Four former company executives have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the bribery of 20 public officials.
According to the defense motion, Jenkins told Ben-Veniste that in the spring of 1982 the Army had declared Wedtech eligible for contracts set aside for minority-owned firms but had decided it was not financially qualified to get the engine contract. He convened the meeting of government officials to help the company get the necessary financing.
Later, Jenkins said he advised Bragg that Wedtech should inform the Army that it might be able to obtain $700,000 in financing from the New York State Job Development Corp. and dictated a letter to that effect, according to the court filing.
″While the letter was addressed to Mr. Jenkins, he had intended only that he receive a courtesy copy,″ the defense memo says. Copies were also sent to the Army and the Small Business Administration, it says.