Canton Repository

January 16, 2006

Ney gives up committee job

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Rep. Bob Ney stepped down as House Administration Committee chairman Sunday, two days after Republican officials indicated he was being pressured to do so on account of his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal.

The committee oversees lobbying.

Ney, who has not been charged with any crime, continued to insist he is innocent.

“I want to assure my colleagues and my constituents that I have done absolutely nothing wrong and I am convinced that I will be vindicated completely at the end of this difficult process,” Ney, R-Heath, said in a statement.

The six-term lawmaker has been identified as the “Representative No. 1” who is alleged in two federal plea agreements to have provided legislative favors to lobbyists in exchange for free meals, tickets to sporting events, a 2002 golf trip to Scotland and other benefits.

Convicted influence peddlers Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, partners who admitted to defrauding Indian tribe clients of tens of millions of dollars, have agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in a widening probe of Congress that may be targeting a dozen or more lawmakers and congressional staff members.

Ney was holding housing-related hearings on the Gulf Coast on Friday when word came out that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., had been talking with Ney about giving up the post.

In announcing he was temporarily relinquishing the chairmanship, Ney said it was a difficult decision.

“Unfortunately it has become clear to me in recent days that the false allegations made against me have become a distraction to the important work of the House Republican Conference and the important work that remains ahead for the House Administration Committee,” he said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Rep. John Boehner, an Ohio Republican who is vying to replace Rep. Tom DeLay as Republican majority leader, suggested Ney step aside.

“For the good of House Republicans and the good of our party, I think Bob needs to seriously consider stepping aside, not that he’s pleading guilty or anything else, but I think he should do what’s in the best interest of our party,” Boehner of West Chester said during an interview on Fox News.

DeLay was forced to resign as majority leader when he was indicted last year on campaign finance-related charges in Texas. In addition to Boehner, acting majority leader Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., are seeking the position.

Republican leaders, who plan to introduce a comprehensive lobbying reform proposal later this month, had expressed concern over how it would look for Ney to oversee the legislation as it moves through Congress, a responsibility that might fall to the Administration Committee chairman.

With the growing scandal threatening Republican control of Congress, lawmakers are drawing up plans to restrict the gifts that lobbyists can provide to lawmakers and put further limits on lobbying by ex-lawmakers.

Though Ney said he informed Hastert of his decision Sunday, no comment was available from the speaker’s office. It was unknown whom Hastert might appoint to replace Ney as chairman. Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., is second in seniority to Ney on the committee.

Ney remains chairman of a housing subcommittee that is part of the Financial Affairs Committee.

Copley News Service correspondent Toby Eckert contributed to this story.