WASHINGTON — Lyn Nofziger on Thursday became the third former high-ranking Reagan Administration official to be convicted on ethics-related charges, following former White House aide Michael K. Deaver by two months and former Environmental Protection Agency official Rita M. Lavelle by more than four years.
Nofziger's conviction on three counts of illegal lobbying stemmed from one of a series of stormy investigations of official misconduct that have marred Reagan's seven years in office. Some investigations have been dropped when the officials resigned. Some are still in progress.
One, centering on former Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan, ended with his acquittal last May on New York state charges of grand larceny and fraud involving his work as a New Jersey building contractor before he joined the Administration.
Oblivious to Conflicts
Some ethics authorities interviewed said they believe the investigations have found a growing obliviousness in recent years to potential conflicts of interest.
"There has been a pretty cavalier attitude toward ethics in government by some officials," said J. Jackson Walter, who was the first director of the federal Office of Government Ethics from 1979 to 1982.
"At the same time, we're seeing that Washington juries, as proxies for the American people, are saying that integrity in government is a very important and popular virtue."
Monroe H. Freedman, professor of legal ethics at Hofstra University, said: "There seems to be a greater number of people who are in government today for selfish reasons. Back amid the idealism of the 1960s, many young people sought government service for what they might contribute--not for the sake of enriching themselves."
Nofziger, former White House political director, was convicted of using his White House contacts to advance the interests of clients of his new lobbying firm shortly after he left government service in January, 1982. The 1978 Ethics in Government Act limits lobbying of high officials by their former colleagues.
Convicted of Perjury
Deaver was convicted of perjury for lying to a grand jury and a congressional panel about his lobbying contacts. His conviction is in limbo pending a Supreme Court review of the constitutionality of some appointments of independent counsels. Lavelle, former assistant administrator of the EPA, was convicted in December, 1983, on four charges of lying to Congress about conflicts of interest in her management of the EPA's $1.6-billion Superfund program.
In addition, two former high Administration officials have pleaded guilty to financial crimes. C. McClain Haddow, former chief of staff of the Health and Human Services Department, pleaded guilty last July to felony charges related to more than $55,000 in kickbacks he received through government speech-writing contracts and a charitable foundation he had helped create. W. Paul Thayer, former deputy secretary of defense, pleaded guilty in March, 1985, in a $1.9-million insider trading case.