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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."