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Correction to This Article
An Oct. 18 article incorrectly reported that Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) defeated an incumbent Democrat in 1994. It should have said Ney replaced a retiring Democrat.

Lawmaker's Abramoff Ties Investigated

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By James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

As federal officials pursue a wide-ranging investigation into the activities of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his arrest on fraud charges in the purchase of a Florida casino boat company has increasingly focused attention on a little-known congressman from rural Ohio.

Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) placed comments in the Congressional Record favorable to Abramoff's 2000 purchase of the casino boat company, SunCruz Casinos. Two years later, Ney sponsored legislation to reopen a casino for a Texas Indian tribe that Abramoff represented.

Ney approved a 2002 license for an Israeli telecommunications company to install antennas for the House. The company later paid Abramoff $280,000 for lobbying. It also donated $50,000 to a charity that Abramoff sometimes used to secretly pay for some of his lobbying activities.

Meanwhile, Ney accepted many favors from Abramoff, among them campaign contributions, dinners at the lobbyist's downtown restaurant, skybox fundraisers, including one at his MCI Center box, and a golfing trip to Scotland in August 2002. If statements made by Abramoff to tribal officials and in an e-mail are to be believed, Ney sought the Scotland trip after he agreed to help Abramoff's Texas Indian clients. Abramoff then arranged for his charity to pay for the trip, according to documents released by a Senate committee investigating the lobbyist.

Ney is under investigation by Florida federal prosecutors looking into Abramoff's acquisition of SunCruz, according to sources familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Abramoff and his business partner Adam Kidan were indicted in August on fraud charges related to the purchase.

Ney declined to be interviewed. He has said his actions benefiting Abramoff had nothing to do with the favors he received. He said he was misled by Abramoff and his associates.

"I am absolutely outraged by the dishonest and duplicitous words and actions of Jack Abramoff," Ney said last year when Abramoff's statements about Ney first came up in e-mails released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "As the testimony at both committee hearings has revealed, Jack Abramoff repeatedly lied to advance his own financial interests."

Abramoff, whose attorneys declined to comment for this article, has publicly denied that he misled Ney.

This spring, Ney hired a prominent Washington criminal defense lawyer, Mark Tuohey, to handle inquiries from the Justice Department and congressional investigators pursuing the widening scandal. Tuohey has not returned phone calls in recent weeks to discuss his client.

Comments for SunCruz

A six-term congressman from rural eastern Ohio, Ney, 51, does not have a national profile. A former teacher and public safety director for his home town of Bellaire, Ney was an Ohio legislator in 1994 when he defeated the Democratic incumbent in the congressional district once represented by Wayne Hays (D).

But to members of Congress, Ney is known as the mayor of Capitol Hill. Ney is Administration Committee chairman, a powerful position that doles out budgets, equipment, offices and parking spaces to House members. These perks are used by House Republican leaders to keep their rank and file in line.

Ney became chairman of the committee thanks to his political patron, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who recently stepped down as House majority leader after he was indicted on a charge of conspiracy to violate a Texas campaign law. Shortly after Ney arrived in the House in 1994, he became a part of DeLay's Retain Our Majority Program (ROMP), a fundraising effort in which GOP colleagues donated to Republicans such as Ney in districts without a safe majority. After lines were redrawn to make Ney's district more Republican, he returned the favor, donating to other vulnerable House Republicans. That helped him earn his chairmanship in 2001, leapfrogging over a colleague with more seniority.


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