Report: Ney Denied Aiding Abramoff Clients

The Associated Press
Thursday, June 22, 2006; 4:59 PM

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Bob Ney told Senate investigators he made no effort to help a client of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, despite extensive evidence to the contrary, a congressional report said Thursday.

Ney said he was not even familiar with the Tigua tribe of El Paso, Texas, which was seeking legislation that would allow it to reopen its shuttered casino, according to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee report on the massive lobbying fraud perpetrated on Indian tribes by Abramoff and others.

Yet the report says Ney assured tribal leaders of his support for the legislation on two occasions in 2002, once in person and once via telephone.

The section of the 373-page report that focuses on Ney is a fresh sign of potential legal trouble for the Ohio Republican who has become ensnared in a wide-ranging criminal probe of influence peddling in Washington.

The report also highlighted the work of former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed on behalf of Indian gambling interests. Reed, seeking the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor in Georgia, was paid more than $4 million by two tribes between March 2001 and February 2002, the report said. The money was sent through intermediaries to satisfy Reed's concern that he not be linked to Indian casinos, the report said.

Reed, a longtime friend of Abramoff, received the bulk of the credit for shutting down the Tigua's casino, a campaign carried out to benefit another Abramoff client's gambling operations.

In a statement, Reed said, "The report confirms that I have not been accused of any wrongdoing."

Reed said he was assured he would not be paid with money derived from gambling. "While I believed at the time that those assurances were sufficient, it is now clear with the benefit of hindsight that this is a piece of business I should have declined," Reed said.

The committee said the Tigua's plight showcased the aggressive efforts of Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, a former aide to then-Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Abramoff and Scanlon helped close the Tigua casino "only to pitch their services for millions of dollars to help that same, now desperate tribe reopen its casino," the committee reported. The lobbyists' scheme sucked tens of millions of dollars from Indian tribes. "Without doubt, the depth and breadth of their misconduct was astonishing," the report said.

Still, the report said existing laws are sufficient to deal with the fraud it described.

The committee report was entitled "Gimme Five," a reference to what Abramoff and Scanlon called their secret fee-splitting arrangement. The committee approved the report's release Thursday by a 13-0 vote.

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