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.
Federal investigators have said that there was no indication that Mr. Dyson was aware the money was tainted. Mr. Dyson last fall returned some $18,000 in 1987 contributions from Unisys officials.
Mr. Robinson also dismissed any connection between Mr. Dyson's interest in the controversial weapons system and the campaign contributions from Unisys consultants.
"He thought it was right for the Navy," said Mr. Robinson, despite Navy objections that the system was unnecessary. But he said that sometimes the Navy "doesn't want things that it ought to have."
The affidavit contains references to calls made by the late Representative William Chappell, D-Fla. -- chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, who also received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions -- and other officials to the home of Mr. Gardner and other consultants as early as
March 31, 1987.
Lawyers for Mr. Gardner have tried repeatedly since his conviction to stop release of the information contained in the affidavit, saying his right to privacy would be harmed. The U.S. Supreme court on Oct. 1 denied the last legal challenge to the release.
In one July 1987 conversation, Mr. Gardner tells defense consultant William Galvin that they will raise $20,000 for the congressman's upcoming trip to New York. "I'll have about 20 [individuals paying the legal maximum of $1,000 each], and that's a nice lunch I'll give him."
Mr. Gardner had a similar conversation in April 1988, according to the wiretaps, when he told another consultant that Mr. Dyson would get "20" like last year on his upcoming trip to New York with two aides.
The latest revelation comes as Mr. Dyson's campaign showed signs of recovery from the controversy over his conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. A Sun Poll conducted Oct. 4-11 showed 53 percent of 1st District voters viewed Mr. Dyson favorably, compared with 46 percent a month earlier, at the height of publicity over his conscientious objector status. In the new poll, 32 percent said that they viewed Mr. Dyson unfavorably -- still a high negative rating for an incumbent but an improvement over the 40 percent negative rating of a month earlier.
The latest poll showed Mr. Dyson with a narrow lead over Republican challenger Wayne T. Gilchrest -- 48 percent to 42 percent. In the earlier survey, taken just before the primary election, 41 percent said they would prefer any Republican candidate to Mr. Dyson, while only 34 percent said they expected to vote for Mr. Dyson if he won renomination.
The poll, conducted by KPC Research of Charlotte, N.C., interviewed 594 likely 1st District voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. In the earlier poll, 10 percent of voters cited Mr. Dyson's draft record as the most important factor influencing their opinion of him. That was down to 4 percent in the new poll, showing that the draft issue had cooled.
Even with the recovery of the past month, Mr. Dyson had not returned to the levels he had in December 1989 -- 56 percent favorable and 26 percent unfavorable.
***Excerpts from FBI affidavit
The following are excerpts from an FBI affidavit unsealed yesterday by the U.S. District Court in New York:
"The Navy did not want CORTS [Coherent Radar Transmitter System manufactured by Unisys Corp.] because it was 'obsolete, useless, unaffordable. . . .' "
"Gardner and William Roberts [president of a Unisysubcontractor] discussed CORTS and an expected meeting with Dyson. Roberts predicted that Dyson would let them know what help he needed with the Armed Services Committee and suggested that they 'let him [Mr. Dyson] call the shots as he did before.' "
"Dyson, in fact, called earlier on March 30, 1988, and said to telRoberts 'his amendment passed and everything's okay.' "
"On July 8, 1987, Gardner and William M. Galvin, [convicted this year of bribing two Pentagon officials], "discussed putting together $20,000 in campaign contributions for Congressman Roy Dyson. Gardner stated that he needed it by Friday [July 10] when Dyson would be visiting New York. . . . They agreed it would have to be in personal names for $1,000 each [the legal limit]. Gardner then said 'I'll have about 20 . . . and that's a nice lunch I'll give him [Mr. Dyson].' "
"On April 20, 1988 Gardner [said] that Dyson would get '20' like last year. . . ."
"On the morning of March 14, 1988, William Roberts called Gardner to discuss funding for CORTS. Roberts stated that they could get everything they had last year and would go to Dyson. Gardner responded that he [Dyson] was their leader last year. Later in the conversation . . . Gardner stated that there was '95K' in the budget, which would be 'enough to take care of any Dysons or anything like that.' "
The affidavit describes a discussion between Gardner and the owner of a small airline who wanted Unisys to pay him for various flights that were "not the kind they want 'em to show on their books." The aircraft owner said that "one of these was a trip for Roy P. Dyson."
"Dyson and two of his assistants were intended to be the beneficiaries of an expense-paid trip to New York on the weekend of April 29 to May 1, 1988. This trip, arranged by Gardner for Unisys, included various entertainment events such as dinner and Broadway shows.
"In an April 20, 1988 conversation with a Grumman lobbyist, Gardner stated that, 'Those guys don't even want to see the plant . . . They really want a weekend in New York.' "
The affidavit reports a telephone conversation intercepted on May 3, 1988, between Gardner and William Roberts in which the two discussed "questionable expenses for the Dyson weekend, April 29 through May 1, 1988." The affidavit goes on to note, "While in New York, one of Dyson's assistants committed suicide, and in response to widespread publicity concerning the trip, Dyson agreed to pay, but not all, of the expenses."