Canton Repository

May 17, 2006

Regula’s clout soars, Ney’s power fades in lawmaker report

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Rep. Ralph Regula emerged as the 10th most powerful member of Congress, while Rep. Bob Ney ranked a much lower 151st, in a new assessment of clout from a Washington, D.C.-based publisher and consultant.

Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, also ranks as the most powerful lawmaker from Ohio in a matchup that includes the state’s two senators and its 18 House members, in the report by the Capitol Advantage and Knowlegis companies.

The ranking of congressional power said Regula derives his clout primarily from his position as chairman of one of the most important subcommittees within the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

As chair of the panel since 2001, the 17-term lawmaker oversees the divvying up of about $141 billion a year to medical research, education and job training.

Ney, R-Heath, has ranked near the top of previous assessments of lawmakers’ influence that other organizations conducted.

But in this first ranking from the two companies, the former committee chairman’s clout has plummeted, largely as a result of his implication in a corruption scandal revolving around convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the report said.

Brad Fitch, chief executive officer of Knowlegis, said Ney lost points through what the report calls a “fizzle” factor, applied against lawmakers whose association with scandal has tarnished their images.

Ney, who is under investigation by federal authorities in a wide-ranging bribery probe, insists he has not done anything wrong or illegal. Ney has not been charged.

Among Ohio senators, Republican Mike DeWine, who was ranked 26th most powerful in the Senate, did much better than fellow Republican George Voinovich, who came in at 70th out of 100 senators.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations and Judiciary committees, DeWine has more influence over spending, legislation and appointments than Voinovich, who is chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, the report said.

The rankings also credited DeWine for passing more legislation than all but 13 senators in 2005. Voinovich was not as successful in passing legislation, the report said.

The area’s Democratic representatives all ranked low as a result of their minority status in the GOP-controlled House, lack of seniority or their pursuit of higher office.

Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, who is running for the Senate, ranked 355th in the House, which has 435 members. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, came in at 401st. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, who is running for governor, ranked 402nd.

Under the methodology of the rankings, seeking another office detracts from power because it “usually translates into reduced resources and ability to exercise power in the legislative process.”

Not surprisingly, the lawmakers ranked as most powerful were House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

In the House, only two Democrats scored higher than Regula — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

Fitch said Obey scored higher than Regula because, in addition to being the ranking Democratic member of the subcommittee Regula leads, Obey is the top Democrat on the full Appropriations Committee, giving him more points than Regula.

Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., the Appropriations Committee chairman, ranked as the third-most powerful member of the House.

Within his overall power ranking, Regula ranked 41st for influence with other lawmakers. Fitch said Regula’s heavy fundraising for fellow Republicans when he ran an unsuccessful campaign to become appropriations chairman in 2004 enhanced his influence.

Among Ohio lawmakers, the next-highest rankings went to Rep. David Hobson, R-Springfield, who was 11th in the nation, and Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Findlay, who ranked 17th.

Ney was forced to step down as chairman of the House Administration Committee earlier this year because of his ties to Abramoff. But his loss of the chairmanship did not figure into the rankings, which were based on 2005.