Canton Repository

April 22, 2006

Ney, Regula amass big campaign funds

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - With the May 2 primary looming, Rep. Bob Ney enjoys a healthy cash advantage over his re-election challengers, despite his involvement in a corruption scandal that could lead to his criminal indictment.

After having raised nearly $1.2 million in campaign funds, Ney, R-Heath, reported $474,276 in cash on hand as he struggles to confound experts who say his entanglement in the Jack Abramoff scandal leaves him vulnerable to defeat. Ney’s campaign finance report shows that he spent $96,500 on legal fees — apparently related to his effort to avoid indictment.

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, also enjoys a comfortable fundraising advantage over GOP challengers and Democratic candidates vying to succeed him in the 16th Congressional District. The 17-term lawmaker, who is heavily favored to win re-election, reported $387,049 in his congressional campaign fund as of the close of reporting April 12.

Though Ney vehemently denies any wrongdoing, the authoritative Congressional Quarterly earlier this week moved the 18th Congressional District race into the “no clear favorite” category from “leans Republican” as a result of Ney’s past association with convicted lobbyist Abramoff.

Blaming Ney’s ties to Abramoff, the publication said Ney’s “political security has clearly deteriorated since his 2004 re-election contest, which he won with two-thirds of the vote.”

Ney, who is seeking a seventh term, has not been charged with a crime. However, some legal analysts believe he is likely to be indicted because of his identification in court documents as a lawmaker who allegedly did legislative favors for lobbyists in exchange for free trips, meals and campaign contributions.

Campaign aides say that attempts to write Ney’s political obituary are premature, noting that he has received endorsements from more than 75 elected local officials as well as organizations such as the National Rifle Association and Ohio Right to Life.

Zanesville financial consultant James Brodbelt Harris is challenging Ney in the GOP primary. Though Harris is actively campaigning, he said he has not raised or spent $5,000, the threshold for filing fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Since the beginning of 2005, Ney has raised $1.187 million, with 70 percent coming from political action committees representing special interests. He has spent $893,752 in campaign funds.

In the Democratic primary, Chillicothe Mayor Joe Sulzer reported $172,159 in campaign cash on hand, more than twice the $76,360 reported by rival Dover Law Director Zack Space.

Sulzer has raised a total of $264,765, with one-fourth donated by political action committees and the balance from individuals. He also loaned his campaign $100,000. Sulzer has spent $192,607 so far.

Space has raised a total of $144,851, with 12 percent derived from PACs. He has spent $68,491.

Two other candidates in the Democratic contest, Jennifer Stewart of Zanesville and Ralph Applegate of Columbus, did not report raising any campaign cash.

In the 16th District, Regula’s Republican challenger Matt Miller, an Ashland County commissioner, reported $39,885 in available campaign funds. He has raised a total of $80,260, with virtually all of the funds coming from individuals. He spent $40,429.

Regula has raised $570,535 in campaign funds since the beginning of 2005, with almost one-third donated by political action committees. Regula abandoned his opposition to PAC contributions when he made an unsuccessful bid for the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee in 2004.

Since then, he has accepted money from special interests, which he professes to need to make contributions to Republican organizations that support GOP candidates. As chairman of a powerful appropriations subcommittee, Regula is expected to play a major role in bankrolling the party. He estimated Friday that he gives up to $100,000 a year to GOP organizations.

Regula has spent $206,199 in campaign funds in the past 16 months, according to campaign reports.

The two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the district, Ashland attorney Tom Mason and Wooster minister Thomas Shaw, did not report any funds raised or spent.