October 14, 2006
Ney says he’ll resign: Lawmaker pleads guilty to corruption
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON – Rep. Bob Ney pleaded guilty to corruption charges
Friday but defied demands from Republican leaders to resign from
The calls that he step down came from both Democrats and
Republicans, including President Bush.
Ney, R-Heath, declined to talk to reporters as he left the federal
courtroom where he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false
statements. It was part of an admission that he accepted thousands
of dollars worth of gifts from lobbyists in exchange for using his
official position to do favors for them.
He is the first lawmaker convicted in an ongoing federal probe of
a corruption scheme orchestrated by Republican lobbyist Jack
Abramoff, who pleaded guilty earlier this year and is cooperating
with federal prosecutors. Seven other lobbyists or government
officials, including a former Ney chief of staff, have been
convicted as a result of the investigation.
Ney, who makes $165,200 a year, said in a written statement issued
after his plea that he would resign “in the next few weeks” after
making “sure that my staff members are OK and that any open
constituent matters and obligations are taken care of.”
Earlier in the day, Republican sources said they believed he would
step down immediately, after emerging from an alcohol
rehabilitation program he entered last month. One highly placed
GOP source said Ney, 52, was “definitely going to resign today.”
When that failed to occur, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.,
and other GOP leaders who have been plagued by several scandals
that could hurt their chances of maintaining control of that
chamber in the Nov. 7 election, warned Ney to resign quickly or
face expulsion from Congress.
The soonest the House could vote to expel Ney would be after
lawmakers return to Washington following the election.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, said
Ney should resign immediately. She lashed out at Hastert for not
forcing him out sooner.
The White House also weighed in, with Bush press secretary Tony
Snow telling reporters Ney “ought to step down.” Ohio Republican
Party Chairman Bob Bennett blasted Ney, calling him a “liar, a
criminal and a disgrace to public service.”
“He’s a cancer in the Congress who needs to be removed, and I’m
asking the members of Ohio’s congressional delegation to take the
lead on expelling him from the U.S. House,” he said.
Norman Ornstein, an expert on Congress at the American Enterprise
Institute, said Ney’s continued presence in Congress “is a huge
blight” on Republicans that undermines the campaign of state Sen.
Joy Padgett, R-Coshocton, to replace Ney.
Padgett is vying with Dover Law Director Zack Space, the
Democratic candidate, in a race that is considered highly
competitive even though the district is strongly Republican.
“Padgett has been dying to have him resign and the longer he
sticks around – it’s like having a skunk out there following her
around,” Ornstein said.
“It’s fairly obvious why he’s staying in office,” Ornstein added.
“He needs the money. The longer he stays the longer he can collect
Ney, once a rising star in Congress, will be sentenced Jan. 19. He
faces up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. Prosecutors
are recommending two years and three months in prison, based on
federal sentencing guidelines.
“While I have tried my best during my 12 years in Congress to
serve the country in bipartisan ways, I have made mistakes of
judgment and acted in ways I’m not proud of,” Ney said in a
“I never intended my career in public service to end this way and
I am ashamed that it has. I never acted to enrich myself or to get
things I shouldn’t, but over time I allowed myself to get too
comfortable with the way things have been done in Washington,
D.C., for too long,” he said.
In court documents filed in September, Ney admitted he accepted
thousands of dollars in trips, meals, sports and entertainment
tickets, campaign contributions and other benefits from Abramoff
and other lobbyists. In return, he used his official position to
help them, dating to early 2000.
The gifts included a lavish $160,000 golf trip to Scotland in
2002, which prosecutors said he “mischaracterized” as an official
visit. Congressional rules prohibit lawmakers from accepting more
than $100 per year from the same source except in limited
The same year as the Scotland trip, Ney used his position as
chairman of the House Administration Committee to steer a
lucrative contract for wireless telecommunications services in
House offices to an Abramoff client. Two years earlier, he
inserted statements in the Congressional Record supporting
Abramoff’s interest in a Florida casino.
Ney also unsuccessfully sought to insert provisions in a voting
bill that would have lifted a ban on casino gaming for two Texas
Indian tribes that were clients of Abramoff.
As a federal judge detailed the charges against him, Ney, wearing
a gray suit and yellow-and-black tie, calmly answered in the
affirmative, except when it came to the tribal gaming provision.
“Your honor, nothing was ever inserted, but I did agree,” he said.
Ney admitted violating a lobbying ban when he encouraged his
former Chief of Staff Neil Volz, who went to work for Abramoff, to
illegally lobby Ney and others during a one-year waiting period.
In an admission unrelated to Abramoff, Ney said he and two staff
members, including another former chief of staff, Will Heaton,
accepted thousands of dollars in gambling chips from Fouad al-Zayat.
He is a foreign businessman and high-roller who sought Ney’s help
in getting around U.S. laws barring him from selling aircraft and
spare parts to Iran.
When he announced his intention to plead guilty last month, Ney
disclosed he was seeking treatment for alcoholism.
“The treatment and counseling I have started have been very
helpful but I know that I am not done yet and that I have more
work to do to deal with my alcohol dependency,” Ney said in his
His attorneys said they will request that his treatment continue
in prison, a request that the judge said may or may not be