So what did James Hirni and Todd Boulanger — the former Team Abramoff lobbyists now in hot water for plying congressional staffers with undisclosed gifts — want in return?
Both men were working for Abramoff at the law and lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig, on behalf of United Rentals, an equipment rental company. Court documents filed by prosecutors allege that in 2003, they wanted action on an amendment to a federal highway reauthorization bill that would have encouraged state public works agencies to rent, rather than buy, construction equipment. That would clearly have benefited United Rentals.
The documents further allege that immediately after they had paid for Blackann and another staffer (identified as Staffer D) to attend the World Series (and a “Gentleman’s Club” in New York), Boulanger and Hinri sent drafts of the specific measure they wanted to Trevor Blackann, the staffer who just pleaded in connection with the scheme, and Staffer D.
Staffer D at the time worked for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which was then chaired by Rep. Don Young (R-AK). That committee was overseeing the larger highway reauthorization bill to which Boulanger and Hirni were seeking to attach their measure.
In November of that year, say the documents, Boulanger and Hirni prevailed on a Senate staffer to offer the amendment they wanted to the Senate version of the bill.
United Rentals hardly has a squeaky clean reputation. This September, it agreed to pay the SEC $14 million, ending a four-year probe into claims that the company fraudulently inflated its earnings and made fraudulent leasing transactions with suppliers, between 1997 and 2002. It did not admit or deny the charges.