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12/13/2005 

Nightline Investigation: Did a powerful congressman receive favors in alleged corruption scheme?

ABC News, December 13, 2005:
Bob Ney is hardly a household name, but in Congress, the Ohio Republican is well-known as "the mayor of Capitol Hill."

As chairman of the Committee on House Administration, Ney controls such key perks as congressional contracts, office space, parking places and even the cafeteria menus. He's the one who replaced "french fries" with "freedom fries" after the French opposed invading Iraq. Such authority sounds mundane, but, in fact, he wields plenty of power.

"A good part of Bob Ney's power comes from the reality that members of Congress are constantly going to him and asking for little things," said Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "From the ability to have a room to run a reception to making sure that your administrative assistant gets to park reasonably close to the elevator — those little things accumulate, so you do not want the chair of the house administration committee to be unhappy with you."

But now, court documents suggest Ney may have received favors in an alleged "corruption scheme" involving Washington's most notorious lobbyists: Jack Abramoff and his former partner, Mike Scanlon. They allegedly schemed to cheat their clients, enrich themselves and shower members of Congress with political contributions.

Last month, Scanlon struck a plea bargain that left him smiling: a reduced prison sentence in return for his cooperation.

Now that Scanlon is cooperating with federal authorities, some speculate he could cause problems for Ney.

"I think that Congressman Ney had better get right with his God," said Texas political consultant Marc Schwartz. Schwartz, who had extensive dealings with Abramoff and Scanlon, is cooperating in the federal investigation. In his first television interview, Schwartz tells "Nightline's" Chris Bury that Scanlon's testimony could be damaging for Ney.

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