WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has formally asked a federal appellate court to name an independent counsel to investigate Lyn Nofziger, President Reagan's former chief political aide who faces conflict-of-interest allegations under the Ethics in Government Act.
The department, in federal court papers made public Friday, said outside counsel is needed to probe Nofziger's conduct in two cases: his alleged lobbying at the White House on behalf of a New York firm that was seeking to obtain an Army contract in 1982 and his alleged intervention that same year to preserve a rice contract for a Los Angeles-based agricultural firm.
Nofziger may have violated federal conflict-of-interest provisions, the department said, because his alleged lobbying involved contacts with former colleagues at the White House within a year after he left government service, a period in which such lobbying is prohibited.
Both cases came to light last November, and the department's request for an independent counsel was expected. Besides serving as Reagan's assistant for political affairs from January, 1981, to January, 1982, Nofziger was Reagan's campaign press secretary during the 1980 presidential election campaign and a political consultant during his 1984 reelection drive.
Paul Perito, Nofziger's Washington attorney, said Friday he was "pleased that the Justice Department has moved expeditiously with a request for appointment of a special counsel. After a full, fair and thorough investigation, we feel confident a finding will be made by the independent counsel that Mr. Nofziger did not violate the Ethics in Government Act or any other provisions of federal law."
The Justice Department filed its request under seal on Jan. 6 and was permitted to make it public Friday by a three-judge panel that will select the special counsel.
The filing, signed by Deputy Atty. Gen. Arnold I. Burns, said part of the case was based on a continuing investigation by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the U.S. attorney in New York, into attempts by Bronx-based Wedtech Corp. to win U.S. military contracts in 1981 and 1982.
Army Contract Sought
Burns said Nofziger, four months after leaving the White House staff, wrote a letter to deputy White House counselor James E. Jenkins to ask his help in obtaining a $31-million Army engine contract for Wedtech, then known as Welbilt Electronic Die Corp. With Nofziger's help, the firm was seeking to obtain the Army contract without competitive bidding as a minority firm founded by John Mariotta, who is Latino, officials said.
Nofziger and his business partner, Mark A. Bragg, who operate a Washington-based public relations firm, each received 22,500 shares of Wedtech stock worth hundreds of thousands of dollars after Wedtech won the contract, government officials have reported. The military contractor filed for reorganization last month under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy law.
Burns said the second matter involves evidence that Nofziger in late 1982 intervened with William P. Clark, then national security adviser, to seek his help in preserving a rice contract with South Korea for Comet Rice, a subsidiary of Early California Industries of Los Angeles.
Clark has confirmed receipt of the letter but said he took no action.
"Mr. Nofziger also sent two follow-up memoranda to Mr. Clark," Burns said, adding that Early California obtained what it was seeking.