Federal authorities are investigating gifts and payments that Gov. Jim Gibbons of Nevada received as a congressman from an executive of a software company that got millions of dollars in federal contracts, government officials said Thursday.
Investigators are examining whether the gifts and payments to Gibbons, a Republican, were in exchange for his help as a member of the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.
The payments were from Warren Trepp, owner of eTreppid Technologies, based in Reno. The company was awarded contracts from several government agencies including the Air Force, the Special Operations Command and the CIA.
Gibbons took office as governor last month after serving five terms in the House. A telephone call on Thursday to the office of his press secretary was not returned. Calls to Trepp and the office of his lawyer were not returned.
Gibbons and Trepp have said they are friends, and have denied any wrongdoing. Gibbons has also said part of his job as a congressman was to promote Nevada companies. He has said that he helped open doors for Trepp, but that the company obtained contracts on its own.
Some of the company's no-bid contracts were classified, which meant that the size of the contract and its purpose were hidden in a budget process that was not made public.
The Justice Department declined formal comment, but some officials who had been briefed on the investigation said that a preliminary corruption inquiry had been opened. They cautioned that no charges had been filed, and said that such investigations took time and often concluded without any prosecution. The federal investigation was first reported, on Thursday, by The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal report said the newspaper had obtained previously unreported e-mail messages that had surfaced in a civil lawsuit in Reno. The paper cited one message in which Trepp appeared to discuss a payment to Gibbons.
"Please don't forget to bring the money you promised Jim and Dawn," Trepp's wife, Jale, wrote in the e-mail message to her husband on March 22, 2005, a few days before the Trepps left for a Caribbean cruise with Gibbons and his wife, Dawn, a former Nevada assemblywoman.