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Top GOP Fund-Raiser Tied to Iraq Fuel Contract

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The Democratic chairman of a House investigative committee presented documents to the Pentagon on Thursday charging that a top Republican fund-raiser, Harry Sargeant III, made tens of millions of dollars in profits over the last four years because his contracting company vastly overcharged for deliveries of fuel to American air bases in Iraq.

In a written statement on Thursday, a lawyer for Mr. Sargeant, who is the finance chairman of the Florida Republican Party and a major fund-raiser for Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, called the allegations “deeply disappointing” and asserted that they were not supported by the facts.

The contracting company, called the International Oil Trading Company, or I.O.T.C., was briefly in the news over the summer when a former partner filed a lawsuit against Mr. Sargeant in a Florida circuit court.

The former partner, a Jordanian named Mohammad al-Saleh, is a brother-in-law of the King Abdullah II of Jordan. The court papers laid out his assertion that he obtained special governmental authorizations for the company to transport the fuel through Jordan and was then unlawfully forced out by Mr. Sargeant, who strongly disputed those allegations.

But the latest claims of impropriety by the company, presented by Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, go much further. Mr. Waxman uses e-mail messages, company documents, Pentagon reports and other information to make the case that Mr. Sargeant repeatedly received contracts to deliver the fuel even though his company was not the lowest bidder. In one case, the letter from Mr. Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asserts that Mr. Sargeant’s company submitted the highest of six bids, but received the contract anyway. In fact, Pentagon contracting officers complained that the company’s prices were unreasonably high and initially said they could not justify giving the work to Mr. Sargeant.

 

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