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Regardless of the degrees of evidence, most of the accused members of Congress rushed to deny any wrongdoing. A few offered novel defenses. Jenrette said that when he met the Arab impostors, his memory was hazy because he had been drinking. "I was in bad shape," he recalled. "It was a full moon, and I had three drinks. Or I had three drinks and it was a half moon." His wife was somewhat supportive, adding: "Maybe they gave him so much to drink he said 'Oh yeah' to everything they asked. But he didn't come home with the $50,000." A New Jersey state senator, Joseph Maressa, on the other hand, readily admitted taking $10,000 in what he called "legal fees" and added: "It was like the Arabian Nights, the Ali Baba situation. The portrait that was painted was so convincing. It almost became patriotic to take their money. You know, let's take some of that OPEC oil money. It's our tax dollars."
The most disingenuous denial was given by Congressman Kelly to NBC's David Brinkley in a televised interview.
Kelly agreed that he had stuffed the money into his pockets, all right, explaining: "Ten thousand dollars in new hundred-dollar bills is little more than a half-inch thick." He said he put all of the cash, $25,000, into the glove compartment of his car. Then he placed it in a file cabinet in his office and spent $174 for small purchases like lunches. Finally, he gave all the rest back to the FBI. But why had he taken the money in the first place? The Congressman said he had done so as part of his own "investigation" of "the gangsters and gunmen" he had met in the W Street house who obviously were doing something "crooked." He said of the FBI investigators: "When they blew the cover on their case, they blew the cover on mine."
News of the FBI's ploy inspired several other politicians to proclaim that they had been enticed into the lawmen's game but had refused to play. Most of these had been approached by Joseph
Silvestri, a New Jersey real estate dealer whose pushy tactics aroused the suspicions of some of his intended clients, including three New Jersey Congressmen.
Among his other maneuvers, Silvestri told a wealthy socialite in Washington that, as he apparently believed, the sheik in the Washington house would be willing to contribute to political campaigns. Quite innocently, it seems, she passed the word to South Dakota Senator Larry Pressler, whose forlorn try for the Republican presidential nomination was then still alive but in need of cash. Silvestri drove Pressler to the sheik's house, where the candidate assumed he was to meet some men who had formed a legal political action committee. But when Pressler asked about their PAC, he was astounded by a counter-question: "What's a PAC?" When they offered to donate money anyway, Pressler backed off, saying: "Wait a