In what is being described as the biggest public-corruption inquiry since at least Watergate, FBI undercover agents posing as bribe-paying Arab businessmen have for two years been investigating a US senator, seven US representatives, and about 20 state officials, officials say. Those investigated, sources said, included Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D) of New Jersey and Reps. John M. Murphy (D) of New York; Frank Thompson Jr. (D) of New Jersey; Michael O. Myers, Raymond F. Lederer, and John P. Murtha, all Pennsylvania Democrats; John W. Jenrette Jr. (D) of South Carolina; and Richard Kelly (R) of Florida.
Sources said the FBI used hidden cameras to film most of the meetings, at which undercover agents handed high public officials a total of nearly $1 million in cash. In return, the public officials allegedly promised to help a supposed wealthy Arab businessman in his business dealings and in winning more permanent immigration status for himself and his friends. Sources said FBI agents, including one of Arab descent, masqueraded as aides to the Arab while funneling the payoffs. Federal grand juries are expected to be asked soon to bring indictments against a number of people, sources said.