November 5, 2005
Feds subpoena records from Ohio Congressman Ney
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON - Federal authorities issued a subpoena to Rep. Bob Ney this week, directing him to turn over records in connection with an ongoing probe of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who collected millions of dollars in questionable payments from Indian gaming clients.
The subpoena was announced on the floor of the House of Representatives Friday in compliance with a congressional rule requiring subpoenas issued to lawmakers to be made public.
Jo Maney, a spokeswoman for the House Rules Committee, said a subpoena to a congressman is an uncommon event. The last time it occurred was when Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., received a subpoena earlier this year in a probe of his ties to defense contractors.
Ney’s past involvement with Abramoff includes an unsuccessful legislative effort to reopen an Indian casino in Texas for one of the lobbyist’s clients, as well as placing comments in the Congressional Record supporting the purchase of a Florida casino cruise line that involved Abramoff.
During his attempt to reopen the casino in 2002, Ney, R-Ohio, received $32,000 in campaign contributions from the Tigua Indians, who were directed to make the donations by their lobbyist Abramoff, Senate investigators revealed.
That same year, Ney joined Abramoff and several others on an all-expenses-paid golf trip to Scotland, which apparently was financed by Abramoff, a violation of a House rule barring lawmakers from accepting lobbyist paid travel.
Ney filed a travel disclosure report identifying a research group as the sponsor of the trip, which he said included speeches to members of the Scottish Parliament. Ney said he believed the group paid for the trip and he complained that Abramoff “duped” him.
The Department of Justice declined to provide any details of the subpoena, which was issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Ney, who serves as chairman of the House Administration Committee, declined to answer any questions about it in a continuation of his refusal to discuss his involvement with Abramoff with reporters.
“As I have said repeatedly, we will cooperate fully with any inquiry,” Ney said in a written statement Friday. He added that “although the government’s investigation of Mr. Abramoff has been well publicized through other sources, it is inappropriate for my office to comment in any detail about an ongoing investigation.”
In the same statement, his spokesman Brian Walsh said Ney “has not been notified that he is the target of an investigation and we do not believe that there would be any grounds to do so.”
“There have been a litany of unfounded allegations made against the congressman by the Washington media in recent months,” Walsh said. He added that Ney “looks forward to addressing them as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible with the appropriate entities looking into the Abramoff matter.”
In the past, Ney maintained he has not been questioned by any federal investigators. Walsh declined to say whether that is still the case.
Two people have been charged so far in the probes.
Abramoff has pleaded innocent to charges he defrauded two lenders when he and Adam Kidan, a New York investor, purchased a casino cruise line in Fort Lauderdale in 2001.
In a separate indictment, David Safavian, a former administration official who went on the same Abramoff-organized golf trip to Scotland as Ney, has pleaded innocent to charges that he lied about the trip to federal investigators.
Ney was among several lawmakers who were the subject of preliminary inquiries by the House Ethics Committee last year. No decision was made on whether to conduct a full-scale probe before the committee’s work bogged down as a result of a partisan disagreement.
In his statement, Ney noted that last year he voluntarily provided information to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which has been tracking tens of millions of dollars in fees paid by Indian tribes to Abramoff and his former partner Michael Scanlon.
Ney has twice volunteered to meet with the ethics committee, but has not received any response, his office said. Up to now, staffing disputes have prevented the ethics committee from reviewing alleged unethical conduct by lawmakers.
Ney has spent more than $130,000 from his campaign fund to pay Washington attorney Mark Tuohey to represent him in the wake of the investigations.