8/07/2006 

Rep. Bob Ney Will Not Seek Reelection

Washington Post, August 7, 2006:
Rep. Robert W. Ney, the six-term Republican congressman from central Ohio implicated in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, announced this morning that that he will not seek re-election.

"After much consideration and thought I have decided today to no longer seek re-election in Ohio's 18th Congressional District," Ney said in a statement posted on his campaign Website. "I am extremely proud of my 25 years serving the people of Ohio. We've accomplished many things to make this state better and I will always be grateful for the trust my constituents put in me.

"Ultimately," he said, "this decision came down to my family. I must think of them first, and I can no longer put them through this ordeal."

Ney has been identified as the accused but so far unindicted "Congressman A" in Abramoff's plea agreement. He has denied wrongdoing.

Ney has been under investigation by federal authorities in Florida and the District for actions that helped Abramoff and two partners buy a Fort Lauderdale-based casino cruise line. The deal that Ney promoted in the Congressional Record hinged on the Abramoff group's creation of a counterfeit $23 million wire transfer.

A Ney senior aide, who left Congress to join Jack Abramoff's lobbying team, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to corruptly influence Ney's official actions by showering him with gifts and trips.

Neil G. Volz, 35, a Ney confidant who spent seven years on the congressman's staff, joined Abramoff and three of his other former associates in agreeing to cooperate with the government and testify against Ney in the unfolding public corruption scandal on Capitol Hill.

Ney, one of half a dozen lawmakers under scrutiny because of ties to Abramoff, has been forced to give up his chairmanship of the House Administration Committee. He handily won the GOP primary in Ohio but Democrats were targeting him for defeat in November.

6/30/2006 

Senior aide to Rep. Ney subpoenaed

Columbus Dispatch, June 30, 2006:
Three top aides to embattled Rep. Bob Ney are leaving his office, and a federal grand jury has subpoenaed another senior staff member in an investigation of the Heath Republican’s ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Matt Parker, who has served as district director for Ney’s office in Ohio as well as an adviser to the re-election campaign, was ordered to turn over documents to federal prosecutors and testify before a grand jury in Washington.

Parker’s subpoena was made public yesterday in an announcement on the House floor, as required when lawmakers or staff members receive subpoenas. Parker could not be reached for comment.

Also announced yesterday were the departures of Brian Walsh, a longtime Ney spokesman; Will Heaton, Ney’s chief of staff; and Chris Otillio, a senior legislative aide.

Heaton was with Ney on a lavish 2002 golf trip to Scotland arranged by Abramoff. That trip is part of what federal prosecutors are examining in an investigation of Ney’s ties to Abramoff.

The once-powerful lobbyist and three of his former associates, including former Ney chief of staff Neil Volz, have pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and said that they bestowed gifts on Ney in return for legislative favors.
Source

6/27/2006 

Ney posed in photo with tribe he didn't remember




Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 26, 2006:
Ohio Rep. Bob Ney, center, poses with Tigua Tribe Lt. Governor Carlos Hisa, right, and Raul Gutierrez, then a member of the tribes governing council in a hearing room after a meeting with Ney on Capitol Hill in August 2002.

Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney didn't recall meeting with members of the Tigua tribe of Texas when Senate investigators questioned him during a probe of rogue lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

But leaders of the El Paso tribe who lost $4.2 million to Abramoff remember small details of their get-together in Ney's Capitol Hill office and even took pictures with Ney.

The meeting with Ney occurred on August 14, 2002, a few days after the congressman and two of his aides returned from a golf trip in Scotland with Abramoff, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, a pair of lobbyists at Abramoff's firm, and former White House official David Safavian, who was convicted last week of lying to investigators about the trip.

"He was red like a lobster from that Scotland trip and had a terrible sunburn," recalled Tigua Lt. Governor Carlos Hisa, who said his tribe was asked to pay $50,000 for the trip. When it balked, two other tribal clients of Abramoff's paid $100,000 to cover their expenses.

In an interview on Monday, Hisa said he found it "strange" that Ney told Senate investigators that didn't remember meeting with the tribe and wasn't familiar with the Tigua.

Ney accepted $32,000 in political donations from the tribe and had agreed to put legislative language in bill to reopen a closed casino they owned. The measure never became law because it lacked Senate support.

E-mails disclosed last week by the Senate committee show that Abramoff and Ney knew in July 2002 that the Tigua's provision was dead in the Senate, but didn't tell the Tigua until that October.

"He seemed like a swell guy at the time, and never mentioned any problems with the legislative language," said Hisa. "He is a smart politician, I'll give him that much."

Election records show that Ney refunded $2,000 to the tribe in December 2004. Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said the congressman donated the rest of its contributions to the Ohio Republican Party and charities including a boy scout troop and women's shelter.

Walsh said that the tribe called itself the "Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo" when it contributed to Ney, and that could be why Ney told investigators he was unfamiliar with the "Tigua." He said Ney "made a good faith effort to be responsive" to the committee's inquires.

Hisa said his 1,300-member tribe got a confidential monetary settlement from Abramoff's old law firm, Greenberg Traurig, but is still out a significant amount of money. He said it hopes to recover more when Abramoff and other lobbyists who pleaded guilty in the case are ordered to pay restitution to victims.

"I don't want them to walk away with a slap on the hand," said Hisa.

His tribe has turned its casino, which once employed 1,000 people and made $60 million yearly, into a concert venue that employs 70 people and barely makes money. The revenue losses mean it has had to cut basic housing, health care and education programs for its members.

Hisa said he'd like to sit down with Ney someday to discuss what happened with Abramoff, but doesn't think he'll ever get the chance.

"Right now, with the scandal going on, I don't think that anyone in Washington wants to talk to me," Hisa said. "Once you mention Abramoff, people start walking away."
Source

6/23/2006 

"Gimme Five" - Investigation of Tribal Lobbying Matters

Final Report Before the Committee on Indian Affairs, U.S. Congress, June 22, 2006:
Page 175

At the Committee’s November 17, 2004, hearing, [Tigua representative Marc] Schwartz testified, “As the election reform measure languished throughout the summer, Abramoff and Scanlon continued to report on substantial progress and a virtual guarantee of success. During that time, I requested a meeting between tribal representatives and Congressman Ney.” Abramoff set up the meeting for early August 2002.

According to Schwartz, Abramoff claimed that “Congressman Ney did not want his trip to Scotland brought up, as he would show his appreciation for the Tribe later.” On August 14, 2002, representatives of the Tigua and Alabama-Coushatta met with Congressman Ney in Washington, D.C. Both Schwartz and [Tigua Lt. Governor Carlos] Hisa recalled that the meeting lasted approximately one-and-a-half hours. In testimony before the Committee, Schwartz described Congressman Ney as “extremely animated about Mr. Abramoff and his ability as a representative lobbyist in the city.” According to Schwartz, Congressman Ney spoke about his district, the Tigua’s plight, the political ramifications for Republicans of the Tigua casino closing, and the federal legislative process, especially the process by which committee reports are done.

Schwartz also told the Committee that Congressman Ney gave them assurances that he was working to help the Tigua. Thereafter, Schwartz recalled Congressman Ney giving Lt. Governor Hisa and another tribal council member a tour of his hearing room. According to Lt. Governor Hisa, at that meeting (which was attended by not only Hisa but also Schwartz, Tribal Council Member Raul Gutierrez, Abramoff and Congressman Ney) Congressman Ney said that “everyone who needs to be involved, is on board.” Congressman Ney said that he and Senator Dodd were committed to getting the language in the bill and that he did not foresee any problem with the Tigua-related provision, Hisa recalled. Hisa also remembered that, about Abramoff, Congressman Ney said that he was a “good friend”; “you’re working with the right guy;” and “this is the man to work with for changes in Washington.”

According to Schwartz, Congressman Ney’s chief of staff gave Abramoff a huge bear hug. Schwartz recalled that Congressman Ney went out of his way to say he would take care of the Tigua’s problems and kept calling the Tigua “deserving.”

During his interview with Committee staff, Congressman Ney said he was not familiar with the Tigua. He could not recall ever meeting with any member of the Tigua. When asked about a possible two-hour meeting, Congressman Ney said he “wouldn’t even meet with the President for two hours.” After the interview, counsel to Congressman Ney, who was present during the interview, indicated that, according to an internal email describing Congressman Ney’s calendar for the relevant period, a meeting was scheduled in Congressman Ney’s office with the “Taqua,” from 11:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Source

 

Senators' Report On Abramoff Case Disputes Rep. Ney

Washington Post, June 23, 2006:
In the fall of 2004, Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) told Senate investigators that he was unfamiliar with a Texas Indian tribe represented by lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Days later, evidence emerged that the congressman had held numerous discussions with Abramoff and the Indians about getting Congress to reopen their shuttered casino.

Ney's statements to staff members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee were included in the panel's 357-page report on tribal lobbying, released yesterday after two years of hearings and investigation. Accompanied by more than 1,000 pages of e-mails and financial ledgers, the report catalogues the now mostly familiar story of how Abramoff and his lobbying team of former congressional aides bilked half a dozen tribes out of more than $80 million.

The report includes new details about some of Abramoff's activities, including his collaboration with former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed and conservative strategist Grover Norquist. The Senate report recommended that the Senate Finance Committee investigate the use of tax-exempt organizations "as extensions of for-profit lobbying operations."

Ney's comments to the panel could add to his problems with the Justice Department. Federal prosecutors have secured guilty pleas from Abramoff and three former associates implicating Ney in a string of official acts allegedly performed in exchange for favors such as a golf trip to Scotland and campaign contributions.

A spokesman for Ney said yesterday that in his interview with the Senate committee, the congressman did not initially recognize the name of the tribe.

Ney's Nov. 12, 2004, interview with committee staffers took place amid a flurry of front-page newspaper articles about how Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon had flimflammed the Tigua tribe. The two first worked secretly with anti-gambling forces to close the casino and then convinced the tribe that for $4.2 million, they could get Congress to come to its rescue.

In his interview with the committee staff, "Congressman Ney said he was not at all familiar with the Tigua" and could not recall meeting with members of the tribe, the report said.

Six days after the interview, Tigua representatives testified at a committee hearing that Abramoff had set up a lengthy meeting with Ney in his office in August 2002 as well as a conference call, and that the congressman had assured them he was working to insert language that would reopen their casino into an unrelated election reform bill. Team Abramoff and the tribe that year became Ney's biggest donors, contributing $47,500 to his campaign committees.

Ney said Abramoff had pushed for legislative language in the election reform bill. Ney asserted that Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) "wanted to insert a provision into the Election Reform Bill that would benefit a tribe in Connecticut," the report said. "Congressman Ney said there was never any mention of any tribe in El Paso, Texas and no reference to any Tigua Indian tribe."

Ney's statements to the committee have been contradicted by others as well, including his former longtime chief of staff, Neil G. Volz, in admissions he made this year as part of his guilty plea to corruptly seeking to influence Ney on the Tigua issue. "Congressman Ney said that, aside from Abramoff, no one -- including Volz -- approached him about the provision that Abramoff had brought to his attention," the report said.

Brian Walsh, a spokesman for Ney, said yesterday that the congressman's meeting with the committee "was a voluntary meeting -- it was not conducted under oath."

The committee report said that those witnesses who were not placed under oath were reminded of "the applicability of the false statements act" and of statutes dealing with obstruction of a congressional investigation.

Walsh said the committee report relied on e-mails written by "convicted felons," Volz among them. He said that Ney had not recognized the name of the tribe when questioned about it by committee staffers, and that the report notes that sometime after the interview, his attorney found a calendar reference indicating he had had a meeting with the "Taqua."

Abramoff asked the Tigua to pay for a golf trip to Scotland for Ney in the summer of 2002, but Ney told the committee he never asked that the tribe finance the trip. He said he thought the costs were covered by a private foundation. The report said: "Congressman Ney said the purpose of the trip was to raise money for underprivileged kids in Scotland and Washington, D.C. The itinerary consisted of golfing, meeting two parliamentarians, and watching the Marine Band."
Source

6/20/2006 

Ex-Bush official found guilty of lying about lobbyist Abramoff

Columbus Dispatch, June 20, 2006:
The first trial stemming from the misdeeds of now disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- which included testimony accusing Rep. Bob Ney of wrongdoing -- has resulted in a guilty verdict for former Bush administration official David Safavian.

Safavian, a former chief of staff at the U.S. General Services Administration, was convicted this morning on four of five felony counts of lying and obstruction on the fifth day of jury deliberation.

Safavian's offenses include covering up help he gave to Abramoff involving government-owned property and a lavish August 2002 golfing trip to Scotland organized by Abramoff whose participants included Ney and two of the Heath Republican's aides. The weeklong jaunt featured travel by private jet, $100 rounds of drinks, expensive meals and hotels and $400 rounds of golf.

Also on the trip was Neil Volz, a former Ney chief of staff who went to work for Abramoff in early 2002 and who like Abramoff has pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. Volz testified that Ney was a "champion" on Capitol Hill for Abramoff and his clients in much the same way Safavian aided Abramoff from the GSA, which is in charge of managing federal buildings and properties.

Amid the spiraling scandal, Safavian resigned from another Bush administration job last year as the federal government's chief procurement officer. Ney is under federal investigation for his ties to Abramoff, and has been cited in plea bargains reached by Volz, Abramoff and others.

Ney proclaims he is innocent and was duped in several instances by Abramoff.

What Safavian, who awaits sentencing, was convicted on does not involve the direct allegations Volz and others have made about their dealings with Ney.But the Safavian conviction, and the role Volz played in the trial, is not good news for Ney if the federal government pursues a case against the lawmaker, said a prominent criminal defense attorney in Washington.

Stanley Brand, a prominent criminal defense attorney, said shortly after the jury's decision that the verdict bolsters Volz's credibility "to the extent that Volz becomes a witness against Bob Ney."

Brand added that the verdict is yet another blow against Ney.

"How many strikes can he get before the (Justice) Department pulls the trigger? This isn't a directly related case except it involves the trip and now the trip has been testified to and a jury convicted Safavian for lying about it. It's another building block. They already have a foundation."

The jury found Safavian guilty of obstructing the work of the General Services Administration inspector general and of lying to a GSA ethics official. It also convicted him of lying to the inspector general's office and making a false statement to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. He was acquitted of a charge of obstructing the committee's investigation.

"The reality is that this case had absolutely nothing to do with Congressman Ney," said Brian Walsh, Ney's spokesman, in a statement after the verdict was released. "The congressman has said consistently from day one that he has never, at any point, engaged in any improper, unethical or illegal activity.

"He remains absolutely confident that the lies and deception of Jack Abramoff will continue to be revealed and that his name will be cleared fully at the end of the day."

During the Safavian trial, prosecutors asked Volz to name whom he admitted conspiring with to commit so-called honest services fraud, including the giving of gifts to Ney such as free meals and the Scotland trip in exchange for legislative favors for Abramoff and his clients.

Volz listed Ney, Abramoff and two other lobbyists who worked for Abramoff and who also have pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Volz is awaiting sentencing. He could get up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but hopes by cooperating to get a much more lenient sentence, possibly to escape jail time by receiving probation.

Abramoff did not testify at the Safavian trial, but Abramoff too has named Ney in his plea bargain. Abramoff is expected to play a prominent role if prosecutors indict any members of Congress or lawmakers' staff.

But Ney spokesman Walsh said Volz and Abramoff lack credibility and are trying to lessen penalties they face.

"Like Jack Abramoff, Neil Volz is clearly under a great deal of pressure from prosecutors to justify his plea agreement and to limit the amount of time he has to spend in jail, but the problem with his characterization of the congressman is that it is at complete odds with the actual facts," said Walsh, at the time.

During the Safavian trial, prosecutors said that Safavian tried to help Abramoff obtain federal land known as White Oak in a Washington suburb for a school Abramoff had started. Safavian denied wrongdoing. His attorney tried to show that Volz didn't have personal knowledge that Safavian received improper gifts on the Scotland trip, noting that her client had reimbursed Abramoff $3,100 for the trip.

Prosecutors said Safavian also gave Abramoff inside information about a project to redevelop the Old Post Office in downtown Washington.

Safavian took the stand for two days in his own defense. He acknowledged some misjudgments and forwarding Abramoff some insider information, such as the position of other government officials on the GSA properties, but attributed these errors to his inexperience. Basically he maintained he simply gave generally available information to an old friend who was inquiring about government property that the GSA had not even decided what to do with yet.
Source

5/31/2006 

Ney lied about trip, says Republican's former aide

Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 31, 2006:
Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney never met with Scottish members of parliament during a golf trip to Scotland, even though he subsequently signed travel disclosure forms that claimed such a meeting occurred, Ney's former chief of staff told a jury Tuesday.

Neil Volz went to work for lobbyist Jack Abramoff in February 2002 after leaving Ney's office and accompanied them both to Scotland in August 2002. His testimony took place in the trial of another golfer on the trip: former General Services Administration chief of staff David Safavian. Safavian is accused of falsely claiming that Abramoff had no business ties with the GSA when Savafian got permission to visit Scotland with the group.

Volz said much of the trip consisted of golfing, drinking and smoking cigars. The group, which included two Ney aides and former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, stayed in hotels that cost as much as $500 nightly. Golf and caddy fees at the elite courses they visited came to $400 per person per game. A single round of drinks cost $100. On the private jet that ferried them to Scotland, they dined on sushi from Abramoff's restaurant.

Ney was originally scheduled to eat dinner with Scottish parliamentarians early in the trip, but the appointment fell through. Ney later scrambled to arrange a meeting in a London parliamentary building so he could claim the trip was for official business, Volz testified.

Afterward, Volz said he filled out a sample travel disclosure form for Ney that listed the trip's cost at $3,200, a low amount that Volz believed wouldn't cause media scrutiny. Volz suggested that Ney cite visits with the Scottish parliamentarians, attending the Edinburgh Military Tattoo with Queen Elizabeth II, and visiting British parliamentarians as the trip's official purpose. The forms that Ney filed with the House of Representatives used Volz' wording, minus the royal reference.
Source

 

Former Ney Aide Details How Abramoff Treated 'Champions'

Washington Post, May 31, 2006:
In the first public testimony by a member of Jack Abramoff's inner circle, a former congressional aide told a federal jury yesterday how the disgraced lobbyist identified his "champions" in government and then showered them with favors to get inside information and help for his clients.

Neil G. Volz, who was chief of staff to Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) before joining Abramoff's lobbying firm, testified that among those he and his colleagues considered allies were Ney and former General Services Administration official David H. Safavian, the first person brought to trial in connection with the Abramoff scandal.

In the first public testimony by a member of Jack Abramoff's inner circle, a former congressional aide told a federal jury yesterday how the disgraced lobbyist identified his "champions" in government and then showered them with favors to get inside information and help for his clients.

Neil G. Volz, who was chief of staff to Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) before joining Abramoff's lobbying firm, testified that among those he and his colleagues considered allies were Ney and former General Services Administration official David H. Safavian, the first person brought to trial in connection with the Abramoff scandal.

Safavian's lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, tried to chip away at Volz's credibility, eliciting admissions from him that he helped Ney and two staff members provide false information about the cost and the purpose of the Scotland trip to the clerk of the House. Volz admitted that he unsuccessfully floated the idea of embellishing Ney's contacts by suggesting he attended an event that included Queen Elizabeth II.

[...]

On advice from Safavian, Volz said, the lobbyists first tried to insert language in an election reform bill. "We had a champion in the Congress who had already agreed to attach another provision," Volz testified, identifying the lawmaker as "Congressman Ney." Ney had agreed to try to add language to the same bill that would have aided a Texas Indian tribe represented by Abramoff.
Source

5/30/2006 

How to Do Nothing, Washington-Style

Washington Post, May 30, 2006:
The Gulfstream II had everything a congressman getting a free golf trip to Scotland could want. "State of the art entertainment center," boasted a description of the jet's elegant appointments. "Complete bar service. . . . Rich mahogany woodwork . " For the $91,465 charter, lobbyist Jack Abramoff got his money's worth -- or, as was his style, other people's money's worth: in this case, two Indian tribes and a Russian vodka distributor.

The charter details were part of the evidence introduced last week during the trial of David Safavian at the federal courthouse in Washington. A former General Services Administration official, Safavian is accused of lying to investigators about whether Abramoff had business before the agency when he invited Safavian along for the ride. Also on board, and shown to the jury in a photograph that captured him reading the newspaper in a plush captain's chair, was Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio).
Source