Canton Repository

June 15, 2006

Regula, Ney disclose data about travel and finances

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Rep. Bob Ney accepted no privately funded travel last year, while Rep. Ralph Regula took two trips financed by nonprofit groups, the lawmakers reported in required congressional financial disclosures released Wednesday.

Ney, R-Heath, who is under investigation as part of a broad federal probe of corruption among lobbyists and lawmakers, has stopped taking privately paid trips until Congress enacts reforms that the congressman believes are necessary, his spokesman, Brian J. Walsh, said.

Though Ney is not among lawmakers who rank high for the number of private trips they have taken in the past, the six-term congressman went on a controversial 2002 golf trip to Scotland organized by former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy as part of a scheme to defraud his Indian tribe clients out of tens of millions of dollars and bribe public officials, including Ney.

Ney has not been charged in the investigation, and he denies that he did anything wrong or illegal.

Walsh said Ney has ruled out any more trips because “he believes that the privately funded travel system needs to be reformed and has chosen not to take any such trips until these reforms are put in place.”

Ney contends that the House Ethics Committee should preapprove all privately funded trips, and those same trips should be disclosed on the Internet “in order to strengthen transparency to the public,” Walsh said.

Several former congressional aides and lobbyists, including Ney’s former chief of staff Neil Volz, have alleged in plea agreements that Abramoff offered the trip to Scotland, tickets to sporting events or other things of value to Ney and others in exchange for legislative favors from government officials.

Ney insists Abramoff misled him about the trip. The congressman has denied providing any favors to Abramoff in exchange for anything of value.

Regula, who chairs a House appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over education spending, reported accepting two privately financed education-related trips.

The 17-term lawmaker and gentleman-farmer went to Cancun, Mexico, for a six-day education conference sponsored by the Aspen Institute in February 2005.

In March 2005, Regula went on a three-day education retreat in Los Angeles sponsored by the Broad Foundation, a Los Angeles-based education group.

Congressional rules allow lawmakers to accept privately funded travel for events that relate to their duties as legislators, as long as lobbyists do not pick up the tab.

The annual reports for Regula and Ney showed little or no change in their financial situations. The lawmakers are only required to report their assets in broad ranges.

Regula reported the value of his assets — including stocks, farmland in Ohio and a business partnership — unchanged from last year, at between $815,000 and $1.75 million.

As in the past, Ney reported virtually no financial investments — just a credit union savings account valued at between $1 and $1,000.

But for the first time, he also disclosed a house in Thessaliniki, Greece, owned by his wife Elizabeth, whose father was a Greek citizen. The house, transferred to Ney’s wife after her father died in 1999, is valued at between $100,000 and $250,000.

Walsh said the congressman did not have to list the house in the report until this year since Ney’s wife did not begin renting it out until 2005.

Lawmakers do not have to list their primary residence, their vehicles or retirement plans unless they have begun to draw from the plans in the financial reports.

Among other reports, Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville, listed assets valued between $7.1 million and $35.3 million. The majority of the assets were contained in a family trust, holding company and investment partnership.

DeWine’s opponent in the Senate race, Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, listed assets in a range of $134,000 to $360,000. They were primarily investments.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland, listed assets valued between $810,000 and $2.6 million, primarily in investments.

Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, who is running for governor, reported between $30,000 and $100,000 in a savings account and IRA.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, one of the youngest members of Congress, listed between $18,000 and $95,000 spread among several bank accounts.