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Funds link Martinez, Abramoff

Miami Herald, May 18, 2006:
...Court papers filed last week by federal prosecutors in Washington said Abramoff enlisted U.S. Rep. Robert Ney, an Ohio Republican, in a January 2003 effort ''to influence the decisions and actions'' of then-HUD Secretary Martinez. At the time, Ney was the incoming chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees HUD.

The statement made no allegation that Martinez did anything improper. Ney has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.

Still, Ney is among a number of lawmakers under scrutiny in the Abramoff scandal.

Ney's notoriety peaked in January with Abramoff's admission to crimes that included allegedly bribing Ney with gifts and cash. The outcry prompted Martinez to give the $2,500 he received from Ney's political action committee in 2004 to charity.

''The senator wants to make it crystal clear to his constituents that he is not interested in any campaign donations that have even a hint of impropriety in this matter,'' Martinez spokeswoman Kerry Feehery told The Miami Herald on Jan. 13.

Ney, Martinez and Abramoff were linked publicly again on May 9 when Ney's former chief of staff, Neil Volz, pleaded guilty to corruption conspiracy.

Like Abramoff, Volz also implicated Ney in corruption.

Volz, who quit Ney's staff in February 2002 to join Abramoff's lobbying team, said in a statement filed with the court that Ney met with Martinez in early 2003. Ney's purpose was ''to assist Abramoff's clients'' by telling Martinez that Ney's upcoming priorities would include ''housing for Native Americans,'' it read.

How the Ney-Martinez meeting was intended to help any of Abramoff's Indian clients was not made clear. But Senate records show that only one tribe -- the Saginaw Chippewas -- retained Abramoff to lobby HUD.