Dyson linked to lobbyists in affidavit Unisys consultants quoted discussing fund-raising events

October 13, 1990|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau of The Sun William F. Zorzi Jr. of The Sun's metropolitan staff and Richard H. P. Sia of the Washington bureau contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- A federal affidavit unsealed in New York yesterday portrays a close working relationship between Representative Roy P. Dyson, D-Md.-1st, and defense contractor lobbyists, including two men convicted of bribing Pentagon officials in the recent defense procurement scandal.

The lobbyists were the sources of tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Mr. Dyson in 1987 and 1988 when the fate of contracts in which they had an interest depended on actions by the House Armed Services Committee, of which Mr. Dyson is a member.

Mr. Dyson returned much of the money he collected from those sources in 1989, admitting "mistakes of judgment . . . mistakes of the head, not of the heart." Earlier he asserted that he was essentially unaware of the source of or reason for the contributions, including those from Unisys Corp., a major defense contractor.

The affidavit unsealed yesterday indicates a more direct working relationship with Unisys lobbyists than Mr. Dyson had disclosed. The product of FBI taps on the telephones of several individuals connected with Unisys, the affidavit indicates Mr. Dyson worked directly on behalf of the company to obtain committee approval of a radar system for the Navy, even though the Navy had described the system as "obsolete, useless, unaffordable. . . ."

One part of the affidavit records Mr. Dyson calling to assure a Unisys lobbyist that the amendment guaranteeing use of the radar system "passed, and everything's okay."

Elsewhere in the affidavit, one of the lobbyists uses Mr. Dyson's name as if he were referring collectively to lawmakers whose votes he could depend upon.

In a March 14, 1988, conversation, Charles F. Gardner, a Unisys consultant later convicted of bribing Pentagon officials and making illegal campaign contributions, told a colleague he had $95,000, "enough to take care of any Dysons or anything like that."

The affidavit was part of the voluminous evidence collected by federal investigators in their probe of the Pentagon contracts scandal that rocked Washington in 1988. Mr. Dyson's name was linked to that investigation, but he was not a target. The affidavit unsealed yesterday is the product of FBI taps on the telephones of several individuals connected with Unisys.

The affidavit also discloses plans by the lobbyists to bring Mr. Dyson to New York, ostensibly to explore Unisys business, but as one of the lobbyists described it, really to enjoy "a weekend in New York."

The two consultants were over heard predicting that Mr. Dyson would help them out on the Navy radar project.

"Let him [Mr. Dyson] call the shots as he did before," William W. Roberts, a Unisys consultant said to Mr. Gardner in a wiretapped conversation that apparently referred to Mr. Dyson's committee amendment of a year earlier to set aside $78 million for the MK-92 radar system.

Besides the two calls to the defense consultant, Mr. Dyson also made at least one call to the home of Mr. Gardner, according to the affidavit, although it does not give the details of any conversations.

The 39-page affidavit released yesterday shows for the first time that Mr. Dyson personally contacted Unisys officials about weapons systems. Mr. Dyson has said repeatedly in the past that he has conducted himself in an ethical and lawful manner with Unisys and other defense contractors.

Mr. Gardner, a central figure in Operation Ill Wind, was sentenced to 32 months in prison last year and fined $40,000 after pleading guilty to bribing Pentagon officials and making illegal campaign contributions. A total of 39 people or corporations have been found guilty in the procurement probe.

Mr. Dyson's campaign manager, Christopher Robinson, last night dismissed the phone calls to the Unisys consultants and said similar calls are made on other issues, such as those involving senior citizens or the handicapped. "It's not unusual," he said. "The congressman would let them know what goes on."

The affidavit also refers to efforts by the consultants to raise thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for Mr. Dyson shortly after the committee votes in 1987 and 1988. During a trip in July 1987 to New York, Mr. Dyson collected about $18,000 from Unisys officials; the following year he picked up another $16,000.

In conversation, Mr. Gardner refers to the May 1988 trip by Mr. Dyson and two aides to the New York headquarters of Unisys that was scheduled to include a tour of the company's defense plant. But, Mr. Gardner said, "These guys don't even want to see the plant . . . they really want a weekend in New York."

Mr. Robinson also dismissed these comments, saying "Lobbyists like to talk big. They think they run things and like to talk big."

It was during the May 1988 trip that Mr. Dyson's chief aide, Thomas Pappas, leaped to his death from a hotel room.

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