Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Thursday, October 12

Cong OH-14: LaTourette (R) Awash With Campaign Cash From GSA Development Deal Recipients

There's a powerful stink of pay-to-play influence-peddling coming from Ohio's 14th Congressional District, despite the denial by Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Painesville) of any wrongdoing after his name came up in the Abramoff scandal. Records show that LaTourette has received large amounts of campaign cash from the Ratner family of Cleveland, of the Forest City real estate empire, who recently received a colossal development contract from a federal agency supervised by a LaTourette-chaired Congressional subcommittee.

The Abramoff connection ultimately may be only a small part of the story, but a brief review of that connection is a helpful starting place. LaTourette is a member of the powerful Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and was the Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management during the 107th and 108th Congress (2001-2005). That subcommittee has authority over the General Service Administation, which is in charge of federal property generally and the sale and leasing of federal land specifically. Bush loyalist and former gambling lobbyist David Safavian was the chief of staff of the GSA from July 2002 to November 2003, when Bush appointed him administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. He was convicted in June 2006 of lying to a GSA ethics officer when he said that Abramoff was not seeking business with the agency at the time the lobbyist paid for Safavian and several others to go on a golf outing to Scotland in August 2002. At the time of the trip, Abramoff was trying to get GSA approval for leases of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington for an Indian tribe to develop and for federal property in Maryland for use by a Jewish school. Safavian testified that he gave Abramoff tips on how to use members of Congress to navigate the agency's bureaucracy. As an apparent result of this schooling, LaTourette and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) signed a letter to GSA official Steve Perry in September 2002, urging the agency to give preferential treatment to disadvantaged business groups (under a program that would include Abramoff's Indian tribe clients) when evaluating development proposals for the Old Post Office. The letter was actually written by Neil Volz, former associate of Abramoff and recently a staffer to disgraced Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath), who last May pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in the Abramoff investigation. In February 2006, LaTourette returned a $1000 contribution that he had received in October 2005 from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, an Abramoff client also linked to Volz. LaTourette claims that he did nothing improper by advocating special opportunities for disadvantaged businesses, and points out that the letter did not advocate any particular business over another.

The Safavian/Volz letter-writing episode in 2002 appears to have opened the floodgates for others interested in doing business with the GSA to contribute much larger amounts to LaTourette. In particular, the Ratner family of northeastern Ohio, principals of Forest City Enterprises, and Michael Salzberg and Deborah Ratner Salzberg of Maryland, of Salco Mechanical Industries, Inc., have contributed $112,000 to LaTourette in the last three election cycles. (This is just the total attributable to individuals, based on the database of FEC information at Open Secrets. I understand that there are also contributions to LaTourette from Arent Fox, a Washington firm that represents Forest City, and there may be many other contributions from other Forest City-connected individuals and organizations as well.) Those individuals contributed nothing to LaTourette in the 2000 election cycle. Ratner family members contributed the much smaller total of $35,700 to LaTourette in the 1996 and 1998 cycles.

It is important to note that the Ratner family and Forest City are intensely interested in gambling. They and other Cleveland interests formed the Ohio Earn and Learn Committee, which is spending something like $15 million to promote a state constitutional amendment on the ballot in Ohio this November that would place slot machines at certain race tracks and in other locations in Cleveland, including a location controlled by Forest City. If the measure passes, the promoters estimate the slot machine revenues could exceed $2.5 billion per year, with 38% slated for education and economic development. Forest City also has an interest in a gambling/development opportunity in Pittsburgh. Gambling is thus a common thread connecting them to David Safavian, the former gaming lobbyist, and Abramoff and his Indian tribe clients, also pursuing gambling opportunities.

Why the sudden flow of Ratner/Salzberg money to LaTourette? The answer appears to be that in June 2005, Forest City was awarded an enormous contract by the GSA to develop 44 acres of the Southeast Federal Center in Washington DC. A little background is necessary here. The Southeast Federal Center, referred to as the SEFC, is located along the Anacostia River within a mile of the U.S. Capitol Building. It was an ordinance production facility for the U.S. Navy in World War II and more recently was the site of Marine barracks. Plans for redevelopment have been in the works for over a decade, but didn't take off until passage in May 2002 of the Southeast Federal Center Public-Private Development Act of 2000. The key provisions of this law authorized the GSA wide latitude in the types of leasing and contracting it could negotiate, and exempted the project from a variety of federal laws and requirements. LaTourette argued for these exemptions on the House floor, citing the need to attract a larger array of development bids. One big project resulting from this law is the new headquarters of the Department of Transportation. However, the Forest City deal is bigger. Here is the description from the GSA web site:
By leveraging the private sector’s creativity, experience, and resources, GSA will achieve its goal of transforming the SEFC site into an asset where office workers, residents and visitors can live and work. This includes promoting an exciting mixture of land uses including office space, residential uses, and other commercial uses together with a waterfront park, open space, and innovative design.

On June 2, 2005, GSA announced in a press release that it “turned over the keys” to Forest City Washington for the phased development of 44 acres at the Southeast Federal Center on the banks of the Anacostia River in southeast Washington, DC. The development agreement between GSA and the commercial and residential real estate company provides for 3.2 million square feet of residential use, and 2 million square feet for commercial, retail, and cultural space. In addition, there will be a 5-acre waterfront park with a promenade along the Anacostia River, and other public amenities.
Much more research is needed on the ties among the Ratner/Salzberg interests, LaTourette, the GSA, and the variety of people and firms who lobby for those interested in gambling/development opportunities. I am certain that the constellation of small contributions linked to these people and companies is much larger than what I have noted, and the precise interaction of LaTourette and his subcommittee and the GSA remains to be detailed. However, the whole situation is at the least extremely suspicious, just based on what has been uncovered to date.


At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Ambercat said...

Great story, Jeff! The corruption is wide and deep.

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How could LaTourette not be benefiting from these deals?
Remember this is the man who lied to his wife, his children and his constituents each and every time he pretended to be a faithful husband and father. The man is
a prime example of moral bankruptcy and has the definite stench of corruption about him.
After all, with disgraced Congressman Bob Ney as his best buddy and best man, something had to trickle down.

At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Wow wow wow.
We gott aget LaTourette outta there. He's even connected to this Gawd-awful Ohio gambling initiative. The guy is creepier than I thought. Great work. Now let's elect Lew Katz to the 14th.

At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 1:13 PM, Blogger Just Thinkin said...

Why isn't this information in the papers or under investigation by the ethics committee? I don't understand, how LaTourette gets away with it?

Everyone needs to know this before they vote!

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Yellow Dog Sammy said...

Just Thinkin -

This is a breaking story. We need to get the newspapers into the loop.

Write a letter to the editor of the PD, the ABJ, and/or the suburban papers!


At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You lit up the Democratic Underground


At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Immediate Release from the
We The People Campaign
Lange for Congress

LaTourette received at least $10,000 from The American Liberty PAC, the slush fund put together by Rep. Bob Ney, one of the biggest crooks on Capitol Hill.
Lange demands that LaTourette donate that $10,000 from Ney to charity, preferably the Scholarship Fund of the Lake County NAACP

[Recent] testimony by Ned Volz, former staffer for embattled Republican Congressman Ney and imprisoned lobbyist Abramoff, revealed that Congressman Steve LaTourette was part of an effort to “rig the rules” in favor of Abramoff and his client, the so-called Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana. There are many questions that immediately arise from this one case of the corruption culture in Congress alone:
The first question that arises is one of constituent services: why would a Congressman from NE Ohio try to influence the federal government on behalf of a business run by a government-chartered tribe from southern Louisiana?
Secondly, why would a US Congressman try to “rig the rules” (using Volz’ terms for the transaction) by allowing a criminal lobbyist (Abramoff) to dictate the content of an influential letter he, the Congressman, signed and sent to the GSA?
Thirdly, why would that same Congressman accept major campaign donations from a variety of fronts associated with the criminal lobbying efforts of Abramoff and the phony tribe (which should change its name from Chitimacha to “Cheating Mucho”) he once used to advance his financial interests at the expense of the US taxpayer?

Connect the dots and follow the money for LaTourette’s 2004 Congressional Campaign alone:
1. $10,000 from The American Liberty PAC, the slush fund put together by Rep. Bob Ney and funded in large measure by Jack Abramoff.
2. $10,000 from The Freedom Project PAC, the slush fund put together by Rep. John Boehner (now promoted to higher office) who received at least $15,000 in campaign donations from the Chitimacha (“Cheating Mucho”) tribe of LA.
3. $10,000 from the Midnight Sun PAC, another slush fund closely associated with Jack Abramoff.
4. $10,000 from The Americans for a Republican Majority PAC, a slush fund put together by disgraced and indicted Congressman Delay who is also closely tied to the Abramoff scandal.

“As much as LaTourette would like to distant himself from the Abramoff scandal, just follow the money and it’s pretty clear that Mr. LaTourette is up to his ears in the culture of corruption polluting the peoples house”, said Rev. Werner Lange, independent candidate for the 14th Congressional District of Ohio, “It is high time to remove all bought-off politicians from office and take down the ‘for sale’ sign from the peoples house”.

At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


We The People Campaign
May 9, 2006

He has admittedly done favors for the convicted crook Jack Abramoff. He had received campaign donations from an another admitted crook, Neil Volz who worked for Abramoff and was Rep. Bob Ney’s former chief of staff. That’s only what Rep. Steve LaTourette has admitted so far. This partially revealed connection to corruption in D.C. is only the tip of a vast iceberg. Let the public record speak for itself:

1. On September 5 (2002) Rep. Steve LaTourette wrote a letter on behalf of Jack Abramoff to influence a publicly funded project which echoed word for word what Jack Abramoff instructed him to write.

2. During his campaign for Congress in 2004, Rep. Steve LaTourette received $10,000 from the “American Liberty PAC”, the leadership PAC of Bob Ney funded in large amounts by Jack Abramoff.

3. During his campaign for Congress in 2004, Rep. Steve LaTourette received $10,000 from “Americans for a Republican Majority”, the leadership PAC of Tom DeLay who has been indicted for various crimes.

4. During his campaign for Congress in 2004, Rep. Steve LaTourette received $10,000
From the “Midnight Sun PAC”, another outfit with strong ties to Jack Abramoff.

“Steve LaTourette is the direct beneficiary of a pack of wolves which seem to have taken over Washington D.C.”, said Rev. Werner Lange, independent candidate for the 14th Congressional District in Ohio, “He needs to come clean and then he should repent and resign for the sake of the country and his current constituents”.

At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More on LaTourette’s Links to Moral and Political Corruption in D.C.

In 2004, Steve LaTourette received $10,000 campaign donations from each of the following so-called leadership PACs:

1. Keep Our Majority PAC, the slush fund of House Speaker Hastert
2. Together for Our Majority PAC (TOMPAC), the slush fund of Tom Reynolds of NY
3. Rely on Your Beliefs PAC, the slush fund of Blunt of Missouri

Hastert and Reynolds are up to their eyeballs in the Foley pedophilia scandal and subsequent cover-up.
Blunt was handpicked by the crook Tom DeLay for House leadership to continue his peculiar brand of political leadership as his protégé.

This 30 grand from these morally repugnant sources is in addition to the 20 grand LaTourette took from the crooks Delay and Ney.

That’s $50,000 directly to LaTourette in just one year from the culture of corruption infesting the US Congress these dark days.

It is time for a change, a qualitative one. Declare your independence from the corruption and business as usual. Vote Lange, independent. It’s either Lange or the same old gang.

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At 4:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a stupid story this turned out to be. Typical liberal slander

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