Canton Repository

Aug. 13, 2005

Ney’s office reveals who went on trip to Scotland

By Paul M. Krawzak

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Contrary to previous reports, public-relations executive Michael Scanlon was not among a group of government officials and lobbyists who went on a golf trip to Scotland with Rep. Bob Ney, the congressman’s office said Friday.

The August 2002 trip, which has come under scrutiny from Senate investigators, included Jack Abramoff, a one-time powerful Washington lobbyist indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday in connection with an allegedly fraudulent purchase of a casino fleet in Florida.

Ney, R-Heath, has declined to discuss the trip. But on Friday, after Copley News Service reported that Scanlon was on the trip, Ney spokesman Brian Walsh told the news service that Scanlon did not go.

Walsh disclosed that two Ney aides, Paul Vinovich and Will Heaton, also went on the trip. Their presence apparently has not been previously reported.

Walsh confirmed that joining Ney and Abramoff for the trip were former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed; former Ney aide Neil Volz; and David Safavian, then an employee of the General Services Administration.

The attendance of all five has been previously reported, but they have declined to discuss the trip publicly.

The trip drew scrutiny during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing last November, when Marc Schwartz, a former representative of the Tigua tribe in El Paso, Texas, testified he had been told by Abramoff that Ney “had asked if the tribe could cover the expense for a trip to Scotland.”

At the time, Abramoff and Scanlon were working together to try to get Congress to reopen the tribe’s El Paso casino. In what turned out to be a fruitless effort, Ney had agreed to add a provision to a voting reform bill that would open the casino.

But in a written statement issued after the hearing, Ney denied he was “even remotely aware that any Indian tribe played any role in this trip,” which he said Abramoff presented as a venture to benefit a charitable organization.

In his statement, Ney said he, “like these Indian tribes and other members of Congress, was duped by Jack Abramoff.” Ney expressed shock and disgust at what he said was “possibly criminal behavior” by Abramoff and Scanlon while representing tribal clients.

Federal authorities are probing Abramoff and Scanlon and the millions of dollars in lobbying fees they collected from tribes.

Reporting his trip in a required congressional disclosure, Ney said he traveled to the United Kingdom to speak with Scottish parliamentarians, visit with the British Parliament and attend a Scottish military event. He said the trip was paid for by the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative, nonprofit charity in Washington.

The center subsequently denied that it sponsored or paid for the trip.

Walsh said Friday that Ney was unaware Scanlon was involved in Abramoff’s efforts to reopen the Tigua casino.

According to Walsh, Ney has not spoken to Scanlon since 2001, when he became furious with him after entering comments in the Congressional Record that were requested by Scanlon.