1/31/2006 

Sign placement puts GOP in negative light in Dover





Columbus Dispatch, January 31, 2006:
For U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, the target of a bribery investigation, it was an unfortunate juxtaposition.

He made his re-election announcement Thursday at the Tuscarawas County Republican Party headquarters in Dover, which shares a building with Cash Land, a consumer loan business. Side-by-side on a pole outside the two buildings are two signs: "Republican Headquarters" and "Cash Land."

A federal investigation has linked Ney to Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to several federal charges and is cooperating with prosecutors. Abramoff said he provided Ney and members of his staff with a golf trip to Scotland, tickets to sporting events, meals and campaign contributions in return for Ney’s help with clients.

More than 100 supporters gathered at party headquarters for Ney’s campaign kickoff, and nary a one mentioned the signs outside. But across the street, protester Robert Danco, of New Philadelphia, took note. "That’s appropriate," he said.
Source

 

Protesters try to draw attention to scandal

Chillicothe Gazette, January 28, 2006:
The scene outside Renick's Family Restaurant Friday was in sharp contrast to the gathering in the banquet hall.

While supporters of U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Heath, cheered and spoke about his campaign for re-election inside, a group of residents protested outside.

Dressed in shirts that read, "Just say Ney to Bribes and Scottish Junkets," local representatives from a group known as Campaign for a Cleaner Congress handed out fliers while one member played the bagpipes.

"I think (the demonstration) is great," Ross County Republican Party Chairwoman Diane Carnes said to the audience inside the restaurant. "They'll draw attention to what we're doing here."

On the contrary, the demonstrators were trying to bring attention to "Mr. Ney's connection with Jack Abramoff and the scandals in Washington," said local spokesman and volunteer with the Campaign for a Cleaner Congress, Jack Burgess.

"Instead of running for another term, he should ask himself if he should remain in Congress," Burgess said.

Burgess said he wasn't trying to protest Ney's right to have a meeting and he also believes Ney deserves his day in court.

"He's just out of step with the values of the community," he said.

Friday's demonstration was a first for Ross County resident Jim McBrayer, but now that he has his T-shirt, he plans to participate more. Anytime Ney comes to town, McBrayer suspects volunteers with the group will demonstrate.

"I came out to protest because if Congressman Ney is that naive about his dealings with Abramoff ...then he's too naive to be a congressman of the United States," said McBrayer.

As a part of the call for a cleaner Congress, Burgess said he believes elected officials shouldn't be allowed to accept any free gifts, they should post details of meetings with lobbyists and the inspector general should be given more power to investigate "unethical abuses."

"The Campaign for a Cleaner Congress is calling for congress, starting with Ney and (Texas Rep. Tom) DeLay, to do some things that will help restore congress to a more respectable position," Burgess said.

"It's discouraging to think they're going to sweep this thing under the road," McBrayer said.

Chillicothe Police Detective James Lowe told protesters they could be outside, as long as they didn't block the sidewalk.

Only one complaint was received about the bagpipes, Lowe said, from Lake Fry, the owner of Renick's.

After about 30 minutes, the group left the scene.

"We were not trying to be disruptive," Burgess said. "We were just trying to remind the public."
Source

1/30/2006 

The Man Who Bought Washington

Time, January 8, 2006:
From deep inside the Republican elite, Jack Abramoff brought new excesses to the lobbying game. Who is he, and how did he get away with it for so long?

There were two qualities that Jack Abramoff looked for in a prospective lobbying client: naivete and a willingness to part with a lot of money. In early 2001 he found both in an obscure Indian tribe called the Louisiana Coushattas. Thanks to the humming casino the tribe had erected on farmland between New Orleans and Houston, a band that had subsisted in part on pine-needle basket weaving was doling out stipends of $40,000 a year to every one of its 800-plus men, women and children. But the Coushattas were also $30 million in debt and worried that renewal of their gambling compact would be blocked by hostile local authorities"and that their casino business would be eaten away by others looking to get a piece of the action. So tribal leaders were eager to hear from the handsome, dandily dressed visitor who had flown in from Washington with his partner on a private jet, shared some of their fried chicken in the council hall, then waited for them to turn off the tape recorder that they used for official business.

[...]

Only one lawmaker - "House Administration Committee chairman Bob Ney of Ohio, identified as "Representative #1" - "is mentioned in the Abramoff indictments as having provided "official acts and influence" in exchange for gifts, travel, meals and campaign contributions.
Source

 

Cleaning House - Banish the Abramoff Republicans

Wall Street Journal Opinion Page, January 6, 2006:
This week's plea agreement by "super-lobbyist" Jack Abramoff has Republicans either rushing to return his campaign contributions in an act of cosmetic distancing, accuse Democrats of being equally corrupt, or embrace some new "lobbying reform" that would further insulate Members of Congress from political accountability.

Here's a better strategy: Banish the Abramoff crowd from polite Republican society, and start remembering why you were elected in the first place.

[...]

The most culpable is Ohio's Bob Ney, who has been cited in a "criminal information" for receiving trips and other favors in return for statements entered into the Congressional Record. Mr. Ney says that he too was duped, but there's no question he was willing to tap dance on cue for Mr. Scanlon, and that alone is sleaze-by-willing-association. If the House Ethics Committee serves any useful purpose, sanctioning Mr. Ney ought to be it.
Source

1/28/2006 

Jack Abramoff's $10,000 Question

Time, January 23, 2006:
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff's Oct. 23, 2000, e-mail to his business partner Michael Scanlon was, as usual, not subtle. "Would 10K for NRCC from Suncruz for Ney help?" Scanlon shot back: "Yes, alot [sic]! But would have to give them a definate [sic] answer--and they need it this week ..."

That electronic exchange, a record of which was reviewed by TIME, is among the evidence that Republican Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio accepted favors from Abramoff and Scanlon as part of an alleged quid pro quo--a charge to which the business partners each recently confessed in larger plea deals. While the plea agreements spell out various gifts, campaign donations and junkets that Abramoff and Scanlon say they provided to Ney in return for "official acts," the e-mails present in one place the specific elements of a swap that Abramoff has told investigators was prearranged and explicitly reciprocal, according to a source close to the Justice Department probe. To wit: a $10,000 donation to the Republicans just days before Ney inserted into the Congressional Record a statement praising an Abramoff business partner. Ney's lawyer, Mark Tuohey, calls the accusations "totally false."

Abramoff has told the feds, according to the source, that Ney, the chairman of the powerful Committee on House Administration, and his staff repeatedly demanded help in raising cash for the National Republican Campaign Committee--the "NRCC" of Abramoff's e-mail. Under then House majority leader Tom DeLay, Ney and his fellow G.O.P. chairmen had to meet steep fund-raising quotas or risk losing their plum positions.

On Oct. 20, 2000, the e-mail records show, Scanlon sent Abramoff Scanlon's draft of a statement praising Adam Kidan, a co-owner of SunCruz Casinos, a Florida gambling-boat company that Abramoff and Kidan had bought the month before, after a public dispute with the previous owner. Abramoff and Kidan, who have since pleaded guilty in Florida to fraud in connection with their financing of the SunCruz purchase, hoped that Ney's positive statement would "let people know that SunCruz now was in honest hands," according to a source familiar with the case. In an Oct. 23 e-mail, Abramoff proposed throwing $10,000 at the NRCC in the form of a SunCruz check signed by Kidan. The money was sent within days, and Ney got credit within the G.O.P. for raising it. Ney then inserted praise for Kidan into the Oct. 26 Congressional Record.

Tuohey denies that Ney was under pressure to raise funds and says his client had no contact with Abramoff or Scanlon regarding SunCruz. "There was a check to NRCC by SunCruz, and Ney knew nothing about it," Tuohey says.

As the Abramoff scandal has unfolded, alarm has spread on Capitol Hill that Justice Department prosecutors are building corruption cases on legally reported campaign donations--a worry that revelations of the alleged Ney quid pro quo are sure to fuel. Although refusing to comment on the specifics of the Ney case, a U.S. government expert on criminal law made the following point: "Contributions are lawful only if made in support of a lawmaker's policies. They are clearly illegal as part of a prenegotiated deal involving a quid pro quo." For a host of nervous politicians familiar with the murky ways of Washington, that fine a distinction is probably small comfort.
Source

1/27/2006 

The Ney Scandal Grows

The Nation, January 2, 2006:
Bob Ney won election to Congress in 1994, one of a bevy of Republican revolutionaries who promised to clean up Washington and reform the House of Representatives. The Ohio Congressman leapfrogged to power by raising cash for Tom DeLay's Retain Our Majority program. As chairman of the powerful House Administration Committee, which oversees everything from lawmaker mail to parking spaces, Ney became known as the Mayor of Capitol Hill. It's a fitting nickname for a man currently at the forefront of Washington's most toxic corruption contretemps--the money trail of über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The brazen manner in which Ney allegedly pulled strings for lobbyists in return for financial favors is powerfully emblematic of the pay-to-play politics honed to perfection by DeLay Inc. Today, Ney and DeLay are the clearest examples of a "revolution" gone terribly awry.

The scandal dates back to early 2000, when Ney's chief of staff, Neil Volz, got a call from an old Hill buddy, Michael Scanlon. Scanlon had recently left DeLay's press office to work for the well-connected Abramoff, who was trying to buy a gambling boat company in Florida named SunCruz Casinos. Scanlon asked Volz for help. Ney, an old friend of Abramoff's from their days as College Republicans, obliged by inserting a statement in the Congressional Record that pressured SunCruz's then-ownership to sell the company. It was the first of many favors Ney would perform on Scanlon's and Abramoff's behalf.

The SunCruz deal served as a precursor to richer fortunes for the lobbying duo, namely the $82 million in fees they demanded between 2001 and 2004 to lobby on gaming rights for a half-dozen Indian tribes. Much of that money, we know now, vanished in a tangled web of phony Christian front groups, bogus self-enriching charitable organizations and pricey Congressional junkets. In mid-November Scanlon pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to bribe public officials and defraud Indian tribes. The plea alleges that Scanlon and Abramoff "engaged in a course of conduct through which one or both of them offered and provided a stream of things of value to public officials in exchange for a series of official acts." The provider of those ten "official acts" was a certain "Representative #1"--identified by lawyers as Ney--who received "travel, golf fees, frequent meals, entertainment, election support for candidates...and campaign contributions."

Ney is fighting the law on two fronts. He's already been subpoenaed and has reportedly received word of a possible indictment in the SunCruz case, which goes to trial January 9, with Abramoff and his mob-tied partner, Adam Kidan, facing federal conspiracy and wire-fraud charges. Kidan recently copped a deal and agreed to testify against Abramoff and Ney. And Ney could also face legal action in the massive Justice Department probe prompted by John McCain's high-profile Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation of Abramoff. "Gratuity and bribery charges have two ends: donor and donee," says Stan Brand, a top Washington criminal defense attorney and former counsel to Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. "I deduce from these facts that it's inevitable Ney will be charged."

The facts tell a damning story. Ney placed statements into the Congressional Record haranguing SunCruz--and then added another statement praising the company seven months later, in October 2000, after Abramoff had acquired SunCruz and days before he donated $10,000 on Ney's behalf to a GOP fundraising committee. Abramoff hosted a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for Ney in March 2001, and frequently comped Ney's meals at his Washington restaurant, Signatures. Ney inserted a provision into a bipartisan election-reform bill, granting another Abramoff client, the Tigua Indian Tribe of El Paso, Texas, gaming rights--the very rights Abramoff had fought against a year earlier as a lobbyist for the rival Louisiana Coushatta Tribe. "Just met with Ney!!!" Abramoff wrote in an e-mail to Scanlon in March 2002. "We're f'ing gold!!!! He's going to do Tigua." Six days later Abramoff instructed the Tiguas to donate $32,000 to three of Ney's political action committees.

By summer 2002 Ney had a loftier request. "Our friend," Abramoff wrote to the Tiguas, "asked if we could help (as in cover) a Scotland golf trip for him and some staff.... The trip will be quite expensive (we did this for another member--you know who), two years ago." That other member, of course, was DeLay. Ney's trip, which ran up a six-figure tab, included former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed, currently running for lieutenant governor in Georgia, and David Safavian, the White House procurement official indicted in October for obstructing the Abramoff investigation. Ney personally thanked the Tiguas upon his return, even though he'd known for months that their gaming provision would not make the final election reform legislation. His claim that Abramoff "duped" him into accepting money from the Tiguas appears almost laughably implausible as the evidence mounts.

The Scanlon plea likely marked the beginning of the end for Ney, but only the start of the Abramoff aftershocks in Washington. When instances of corruption swirled around the House leadership in the past few years, Congressional watchdogs warned that the scandals reached "beyond DeLay." Now, as three dozen Justice Department officials pursue Abramoff's cash flow, that phrase applies equally to Ney. "I think this could be the biggest corruption scandal in one hundred years," Brand says. "By 2006 you're going to see anywhere from one to six individual sitting members and half a dozen or more staff people indicted. It's beyond Ney. He's the first of many."
Source

1/26/2006 

Lobbyists bring unwanted attention to law firm

Dallas Morning News, January 24, 2006:

Lobbyists are hired for their connections. But as Washington sorts through a growing lobbying scandal, the past connections of two lobbyists hired last fall by Locke Liddell & Sapp are bringing unwanted attention to the powerful Dallas law firm.

The two men, Roy Coffee and David DiStefano, have been connected to a foreign company's attempt to work around U.S. sanctions against Iran and sell airplane parts to that nation – an attempt that centered on U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican accused in lobbyist Jack Abramoff's recent plea agreement of accepting bribes.

[...]

FN Aviation hired Mr. Coffee and Mr. DiStefano as lobbyists to "monitor trade legislation," according to mandatory lobbying disclosure filings. Mr. Coffee was paid about $220,000 by FN in 2003, according to those filings. Mr. DiStefano was paid about $20,000.

Mr. Coffee said the two men arranged for FN officials to meet with Mr. Ney. In February 2003, Mr. Ney flew to London on a three-day trip paid for by the company. He reported on House disclosure forms that the trip was valued at $2,707 and concerned "trade and international business matters."

There, he met with Mr. Winfield and Mr. al-Zayat, who said they wanted to sell airplane parts to Iran but were prevented by U.S. sanctions against the country. They were seeking a special government permit that could allow them to get around the sanctions.

Source

1/25/2006 

Embattled Rep. Ney to Seek Re-Election

Washington Post, January 25, 2006:
Undaunted by speculation within his own party that he may have to quit Congress because of a corruption probe, Rep. Bob Ney announced Wednesday he's running for re-election.

"2006 promises to be a vigorous campaign and I am ready for the fight," said Ney, R-Ohio. He planned to hold his first formal campaign event Thursday.

Ney's popularity has hardly dimmed in his expansive rural district, even after he was identified in disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea as the central figure in Abramoff's scheme to bribe members of Congress.

[...]

Earlier this month, Ney temporarily stepped down as chairman of the House Administration Committee. He acknowledged that his ties to Abramoff were a distraction from his duties, particularly as Republicans push an ethics reform agenda - part of which must be implemented by the Administration Committee.

But Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said no such distraction has affected Ney's work for his district, where he's known for hands-on constituent service and independence from GOP trade and labor policies.

Two Republican members of Congress have moved early to dissociate themselves from Ney. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida gave away $2,500 he had received from Ney and Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana shed $10,000 Ney gave him. Ney's political action committee gave money to both lawmakers shortly before the 2004 elections.
Source

 

Akron's Sykes runs for auditor

Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 25, 2006:
Sykes, a state representative and former member of Akron City Council, pledged to be "an independent voice to ensure accountability and make sure taxpayers get their money's worth."

She then left supporters howling and onlookers gasping by uttering what may prove to be the campaign's most memorable quip.

"We knew that Bob Ney was a crook when he left Ohio . . . but we sent our problem to Congress. . . . We knew Paul Jones was a crook when he left Columbus" to become mayor of Ravenna, Sykes told a news conference.

"They can sue me if they like. I'm 50 years old. I'm going through menopause, and I can handle it."

Republican Ney and Democrat Jones have been investigated but never convicted of criminal charges. Both were central figures in a 1995 Statehouse speaking-fee scandal, and Ney is now a target in a federal investigation of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Source

1/24/2006 

Ney hosts 'dozens' of lobbyists in spite of Abramoff attention

Raw Story, January 23, 2006:
In spite of recent negative attention brough on by his involvement in the Abramoff lobby scandal, Bob Ney (R-Ohio), hosted "dozens of financial services lobbyists" at a recent fundraiser in Vail, Colorado, Roll Call reports.

It was Ney’s third year in a row attending The Lodge at Vail event, which, as in past years, was hosted by House Financial Services Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio). (The chairman, and Reps. Ney, Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.), Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), all held separate fundraisers while they were there.) ...

One lobbyist who attended the event said Ney kept a lower profile that he did last year, but given the controversy, was a more conspicuous presence, especially given that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee coincidentally was holding a fundraiser in the same place.

He noted that the DCCC was holding "ethics briefings" in a nearby room, where Ney could well have had to walk past. "That was the picture in my mind," the lobbyist said.

1/23/2006 

Lobbying: The Web Widens

From Newsweek, January 23, 2006:
Ohio Rep. Robert Ney personally lobbied the then Secretary of State Colin Powell to relax U.S. sanctions on Iran. Who asked him to? A convicted airplane broker who had just taken the congressman and a top aide on an expense-paid trip to London, NEWSWEEK has learned. Ney's lawyer confirmed to NEWSWEEK that federal prosecutors have subpoenaed records on Ney's February 2003 trip paid for by Nigel Winfield, a thrice-convicted felon who ran a company in Cyprus called FN Aviation. Winfield was seeking to sell U.S.-made airplane spare parts to the Iranian government—a deal that would have needed special permits because of U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
Source

1/22/2006 

Congressman Linked to Abramoff Is No Stranger to Lobbyists

LA Times, January 22, 2006:
Congressman Bob Ney was a long way from the cracked brick streets and ragged neighborhoods of his Rust Belt hometown when he teed off on the fabled golf course at St. Andrews, Scotland, in the summer of 2002.

But there was nothing unusual about his cozy ties with the Washington lobbyist who helped arrange his tee time. The Ohio Republican has a history of close relations with lobbyists and special interests that predate golf partner Jack Abramoff.

In his quarter-century as a state legislator and U.S. representative, Ney, 51, has demonstrated a talent for turning such political connections into opportunities for gifts, travel and other forms of personal gain, records and interviews show.

So far, Ney is the only member of Congress directly linked to allegations that Abramoff traded such gifts as the golf outing for legislative favors. He is identified simply as "Representative #1" in a Jan. 3 plea agreement between Abramoff and federal prosecutors.

Years before Ney came to Washington, however, he began accepting honorariums, in the form of personal checks, and travel from lobbyists and business interests when he served in the Ohio Legislature in the 1980s and '90s.
Source

 

The Muddying of the Greens

New York Times, January 22, 2006:
OF all the lessons to emerge from the Jack Abramoff scandal, the most culturally consequential may be just three words long. And it is already being taught as part of an ethics training session for special agents at the F.B.I.

"I'm going to go over a lot of things today, and I can take all of your questions, but let me give you the all-encompassing rule," a lawyer teaching the course began at a recent session in Miami, according to one of the participants.

"Golf," he said, pausing for effect, "is bad."

Golf is bad. The ominous warning can almost be heard echoing across the greens of the political establishment, where the game is not only a cherished pastime but has increasingly become a critical cog in the wheels of campaign financing and lobbying. Lavish political fund-raisers are built around golf tournaments. Fact-finding Congressional trips are tailored to cross paths with golf resorts. Candidates and their supporters spend tens of thousands of dollars on golfing costs each campaign cycle - more and more each year, it turns out - as part of the cost of doing political business.

But now, as the Abramoff ordeal in Washington unfolds, golf is acquiring the whiff of scandal, its exclusive fairways and cozy clubhouses redolent of an improper commerce between money and influence.
Source

1/17/2006 

Spotlight on Lobbying Swings to Little-Known Congressman

New York Times, January 17, 2006:
Until recently, Representative Bob Ney was little more than an obscure, sometimes eccentric, lawmaker from Ohio.

He had made his biggest public splash in 2003, when he ordered the House cafeteria to start calling French fries "freedom fries" because France had opposed the war in Iraq. Fluent in Farsi - an interest that grew out of having an exchange student live with his family - Mr. Ney lived for a time in Iran as a teacher, and later taught in Saudi Arabia.

In Congress, where the language of money and power is spoken, he is known as the Mayor of Capitol Hill, a nickname derived from his position as chairman of the House Administration Committee, which controls aspects of daily Congressional life like the allotment of parking spots.

Now, Mr. Ney has a new title: Representative No. 1, in court documents filed in connection with the Jack Abramoff case. And the modest glory he has achieved as a lawmaker appears to be rapidly eroding.
Source

1/15/2006 

Rep. Bob Ney temporarily quits House post

CNN, January 15, 2006:
Rep. Bob Ney gave up his chairmanship of the House Administration Committee on Sunday amid an influence-peddling probe that has roiled the Republican Party, but he predicted the investigation would clear his name.

Ney, a six-term Ohio Republican, was under heavy pressure from House Speaker Dennis Hastert to give up his chairmanship after Ney was implicated in the scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges January 3.

GOP sources said Friday that Hastert, an Illinois Republican, was moving to push the embattled Ney from his post.
Source

1/11/2006 

Ad campaign targets Ney's lobbyist ties



Newark Advocate, January 11, 2006:
The lobbying scandal in Washington officially hit Licking County this week, if it hadn't already.

A new advertising campaign features television, radio and billboard advertising critical of U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, a Republican from Heath, accused of accepting travel, meals and golf outings in exchange for official favors.

Ney's constituents in Ohio's 18th Congressional District may not have paid much attention to the scandal thus far, but a billboard on Interstate 70 and radio ads scheduled to begin today on WHTH-AM and WNKO-FM may be hard to overlook.
The billboard off the I-70 eastbound lanes, at exit 126, one mile west of Ohio 37, shows Ney's picture with the words: "Rep. Bob Ney: Under investigation for taking bribes." Ney moved to Heath last year from St. Clairsville.
Source

1/07/2006 

Fellow Republican: Ney likely to be indicted

Bucyrus Telegraph Forum, January 7, 2006:
Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, is likely to be indicted in an ongoing public corruption scandal, according to a fellow Republican congressman, Jim McCrery of Louisiana.

Ney has been linked by prosecutors to Jack Abramoff, a former lobbyist who pleaded guilty to charges this week that include mail fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. He also is linked to Abramoff's associate, Michael Scanlon, who pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to bribe a member of Congress and other public officials.

"He'll probably be indicted," McCrery speculated Friday.
Source

1/05/2006 

House ethics guru may have ignored lessons

Houston Chronicle, January 5, 2006:
Before they take their seats in the House of Representatives, newly elected lawmakers come to Washington for a weeklong orientation that includes a briefing on congressional ethics.

Presiding over their instruction is the chairman of the House Administration Committee, who since 2001 has been Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

Now, Ney could have ethical difficulties of his own.
Source