NEW YORK — E. Robert Wallach, the San Francisco lawyer-lobbyist who had a close relationship with former Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, took umbrage Friday when a prosecutor suggested that he was an inveterate name-dropper.
"I did not drop names," Wallach said flatly to Assistant U.S. Atty. Baruch Weiss, who is trying him with two associates on racketeering and influence-peddling charges in U.S. District Court here.
But, in one of the lighter moments of his five days on the witness stand, Wallach's scowl dissolved into a sheepish grin when Weiss read him a memorandum in which Wallach had boasted about name-dropping.
In an Aug. 8, 1985, memo to Swiss businessman Bruce Rappaport on a meeting with U.S. Export-Import Bank President William Draper, Wallach reported: "I dropped every major political name involved, understanding the effect it would have on him and his staff."
Jury Also Smiles
Wallach turned with a broad grin toward members of the jury, who also had smiles on their faces.
Wallach's reference to political names apparently included Meese and then-National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane, to whom Meese had introduced him. Wallach has testified that besides approaching Meese--a longtime friend--about helping scandal-plagued Wedtech Corp., a Bronx-based defense contractor, he also contacted Meese and McFarlane in 1985 about an ill-fated Middle East pipeline project that was unrelated to Wedtech.
The pipeline venture that Wallach and Rappaport were promoting eventually was backed by the Export-Import Bank but collapsed when Iraq, the host country, said it was dissatisfied with assurances from Israel that it would not sabotage the project.
Wallach, who was on the witness stand all week and will return to it Monday, has sought to downplay his contacts with Meese in attempting to gain government contracts for now-defunct Wedtech. But prosecutors have introduced dozens of memos written by Wallach in which he bragged about his contacts at the time.
In one such memo dated March 2, 1984, Wallach told Wedtech executives that they and Meese were "my two major East Coast clients." He was referring to his representation of Meese at stormy Senate hearings that year on Meese's nomination to be attorney general. Meese, a longtime confidant of former President Ronald Reagan, had been White House counselor.
The memos show that Wallach advised Wedtech officials to do some gentle name-dropping when they spoke with a Navy program manager in Washington, Capt. David de Vicq, about obtaining a prospective multimillion-dollar pontoon contract.
"He should be aware of Wedtech's general ally structure," Wallach wrote about De Vicq. "He doesn't have to know it in detail. The fact that we have it, and his awareness of it, ought to be gently indicated."
Wallach and his co-defendants, former Wedtech consultants W. Franklyn Chinn of San Francisco and R. Kent London of Honolulu, are accused of conspiring to obtain nearly $2 million from the struggling company under false pretenses. Wallach illegally extracted at least $525,000 himself on a promise to use his influence with Meese, concealing from stockholders the purpose of these payments with false letters and invoices, the federal grand jury that indicted him has charged.