Congress, NASA

Jefferson and NASA

Sunday’s Washington Post reports that new allegations have linked Congressman William Jefferson, albeit tenuously, with NASA. Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana, was indicted this summer by a federal grand jury for soliciting bribes and reporting trips to Africa as official business. According to the report, in 2005 “Jefferson allegedly agreed to urge NASA in a letter to consider doing business with a U.S. rocket technology and rocket launch services company. In exchange, the company allegedly agreed to pay Jefferson’s family business and a relative.” The brief article doesn’t have any more details.

The actual filing by federal prosecutors with the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, cited in the article (and available online for those able to jump through a few hoops on the court’s web site) has some more details, although it does not mention the company in question by name, referring to it only by the pseudonym “Company H”. According to the filing:

Company H was pursuing a number of business opportunities, including commercial launch contracts with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (“NASA”) and the development and use of the former NASA Advanced Solid Rocket Motor facility in Mississippi and another facility in Louisiana. Executives with Company H were also interested in developing a separate satellite communications company that would provide global beaming of audio, video, and Internet services, which would potentially have a significant market in Africa.

An unnamed individual, “Businessperson BC”, had a consulting agreement with Company H and arranged a meeting between them and Jefferson and a family member:

At the meeting, Defendant Jefferson agreed to undertake official acts to support Company H by, among other things, writing a letter to NASA. Shortly after that meeting and before sending the letter to NASA, Defendant Jefferson told Businessperson BC that Defendant Jefferson wanted the same consulting agreement for Family Member 4 with Company H as had been done with Company C, namely, that Family Member 4 would receive a commission from Company H for certain sales and transactions in West Africa and Central Africa relating to the satellite aspect of the business ventures. Businessperson BC agreed to suggest to Company H that it hire Family Member 4.

Such an arrangement was apparently reached by June 2005, according to the filing, and Jefferson then acted:

On or about July 14, 2005, Defendant Jefferson wrote a letter on the letterhead of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to NASA’s Administrator on Company H’s behalf. In the July 14 letter, Defendant Jefferson wrote of the challenge “of providing the necessary budget resources to NASA, in an era of tight budgets,” and in the next sentence he wrote “we encourage your close consideration of [Company H].” At the time, Defendant Jefferson was the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and his signature block contained the letters “M.C.” following his name, which is an abbreviation used to refer to a Member of Congress… Defendant Jefferson did not disclose to NASA’s Administrator that a consulting agreement was being pursued to benefit Family Member 4 or a Jefferson family-controlled company.

The filing then notes that 20 days after the date on Jefferson’s letter, searches were executed on Jefferson’s home and other locations, “and this scheme did not develop further.”

Naturally, one wonders who “Company H” is. Whomever they are (or were), they certainly had grandiose plans, seeking not only to develop launch vehicles but also a global satellite communications system. It seems highly unlikely that this was a large aerospace company, since they would (presumably) know better than to make such shady arrangements; moreover, Jefferson would seem to be an unlikely member of Congress to curry favor with. This looks more like the actions of a small operation trying to get their foot in the door.

9 comments to Jefferson and NASA

  • anon

    Well, it had to be someone who was interested in (or claiming interest in) the Michoud Asssembly Facility. The only thing going on there except for shuttle ET was the Kistler K1. Hmmm. Seems to me the owner of RpK also has a sattelite communications venture. SatCom or something like that. The RpK building in Oklahoma city says Rocketplane on one side, and SatCom on the other. Could this be the mysterious “Company H”?

    The earlier Jerfferson indictments always identified the state of incorporation and HQ of each of the Companies A-G. I would be interested in seeing where Company H was headquartered.

  • anon

    Here it is. SatCon USA. Con? As in Job?
    This certainly seems to fit the description of Company H. From their web page:

    Our Services: Satellite Communication, Traffic Telematics and Multimedia Designing, Planning, Consulting
    Remote Working, Outsourcing
    Engineering and Project Management
    Technology Transfer between Eastern and Western Countries
    Scientific and Economic Co-Operation

    4300 Amelia Earhart Lane
    Will Rogers Airport
    Oklahoma City, OK

    and from the Rocketplane web page:

    Rocketplane Global, Inc.
    4300 Amelia Earhart Lane
    Will Rogers Airport
    Oklahoma City, OK 73159
    USA, Earth

  • Joe Smith

    Anon: one problem with your hypothesis is your timetable. The encounter with Jefferson took place in 2005, but Rocketplane didn’t buy Kistler until early 2006. Before Rocketplane bought Kistler there’s little reason they’d be interested in the Iuka plant or anything at Michoud, since they were pretty much committed to Okla. Gotta think it’s someone else.

  • anon

    Yup, timing all wrong. This is from NASA’s website, about Orbital being awarded a launch services contract in September. June would be about the right time frame to try to influence that. And they also have a Satellite comm’s venture (ObrCom). They do solids as well, so I think we have another potential perp. Anyone know it that contract involved the luka plant?

  • anon

    oops, forgot the link: 2005/sep/HQ_C05-v_Launch_Services.htm

  • D. Messier

    Um…are you guys assuming that NASA awarded a contract to the company? I don’t see evidence that the company was doing anything beyond “pursuing” opportunities. The report indicates that search warrants were executed only 20 days after the letter was dated and that the alleged plan didn’t go any further.

  • al Fansome


    It says “Page Not Found”.

    – Al

  • Joe Smith

    Anon: Orbital doesn’t own ORBCOMM, and hasn’t for several years. Nor is ORBCOMM doing any “audio, video, and Internet services”; they do the sat version of SMS. Looks like you’re 0-for-2. Maybe do a little more research before posting another allegation?

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>