Times Reporter

June 16, 2005

Group runs ads against Ney

By Paul M. Krawzak

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON – A liberal advocacy group is taking its criticism of Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, to the congressman’s district in an ad running in two newspapers today.

Campaign for America’s Future said it would run full-page advertisements titled “Bob Ney is Betting You Don’t Care” in the Zanesville Times Recorder and Chillicothe Gazette.

Ellen Miller, deputy director of the organization, said the ads costing $15,000 are meant to hold Ney, the chairman of the House Administration Committee, accountable for “trading favors for campaign contributions and luxury junkets.” She said the group planned to follow up with radio ads and possibly television spots by the end of the month.

Ney’s press secretary, Brian Walsh, fired back in a statement that the ads were part of a “personal smear campaign” against Ney financed by billionaire financier George Soros, a major supporter of Sen. John Kerry’s failed presidential bid. He said Soros is the group’s single largest contributor.

The attack from the Washington-based group represents the latest in a series of assaults on Ney by Democratic Party opponents and liberal activist groups in connection with Ney’s links to an Indian lobbying scandal under investigation by federal authorities.

In April, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helps finance Democratic candidates’ campaigns, featured Ney as its “crony of the week.”

Last month, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington drafted a complaint against what it alleged were Ney’s violations of congressional rules. The group hoped another member of Congress would use the complaint to request an investigation by the House Ethics Committee. So far, no member of the House – Democrat or Republican – has agreed to file a complaint.

In a telephone conference with reporters Wednesday, Miller declined to accuse Ney of wrongdoing, even though she said he “exemplifies as few others do the corruption of today’s Congress.”

“We don’t know frankly until there is a full and independent investigation whether something he has done is even technically illegal, but that does not mean in my mind ... that what he has done isn’t corrupt,” she said.

“What he was doing for (lobbyist Jack) Abramoff, what he was getting in return, it is one of the most unseemly stories of corruption that I have ever seen.”

Since late last year, Ney has drawn criticism for agreeing to place a provision to reopen an Indian casino in Texas into voting reform legislation he was shepherding through Congress in 2002.

Lobbyist Abramoff, who sought the provision, is among those under investigation by the FBI and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for what some charge was the defrauding of Indian clients. Ney received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the tribe that would have benefited from a reopened casino.

The group also criticized Ney for going on a golf trip to Scotland with Abramoff and several lobbyists in 2002. Ney has insisted he was “duped” by Abramoff. Ney has declined to answer questions about his association with Abramoff or the Indians or the trip.

Becky Sheline, a Democratic activist in Zanesville, joined Campaign for America’s Future as a co-sponsor of the anti-Ney campaign. Sheline, secretary of the Democratic Club in Muskingum County, said she founded a local organization named Campaign for a Cleaner Congress a few days ago to increase awareness of congressional corruption.

Ney’s spokesman Walsh said the anti-Ney effort represented an attempt by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Soros to win “elections by any and all means possible and in this case that involves coordinating with shadowy, outside groups to skirt our campaign finance laws and dump unlimited amounts of George Soros’ unregulated soft money into Ohio.”

Miller denied that the organization is a front for the Democratic Party. She said the campaign is not directly financed by Soros, but it has received funding from the Open Society Institute, an organization founded and supported by Soros.

Up to now, the campaign has targeted Republicans but not Democrats. The group ran ads against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and Rep. James McCrery of Louisiana earlier this year.