Embattled Rep. Ney Won't Seek Reelection

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), the subject of a federal corruption investigation involving convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, yielded to pressure from Republican leaders and announced yesterday that he will not seek election to a seventh House term this November.

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) met with Ney last week to urge him to step aside, reminding him that with a son in college and a daughter nearing college age, he will need money, according to several congressional Republican aides. If he lost his House seat for the party, Boehner is said to have cautioned, Ney could not expect a lucrative career on K Street to pay those tuition bills, along with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees piling up.

"Ultimately this decision came down to my family. I must think of them first, and I can no longer put them through this ordeal," Ney said in a one-paragraph statement.

Ney, 52, became the third House Republican to fall before the wide-ranging federal investigations into influence-peddling and bribery in Congress.

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) pleaded guilty to accepting more than $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Former majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) resigned from the House in June after two former aides pleaded guilty to corruption charges. And Ney has been implicated in four successive guilty pleas by lobbyists who told prosecutors they had lavished gifts on the former House Administration Committee chairman in exchange for official favors.

With a critical midterm election just 92 days away, GOP leaders are moving aggressively to cut the party off from scandal-plagued candidates and hoping the taint does not spread.

But Democrats and their allies are working just as hard to tar Republicans broadly with what they have labeled a "culture of corruption." An advertising campaign by the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org has accused four other Republican House members of being in the pockets of oil companies. Recent polls show that two of those Republicans, Reps. Thelma D. Drake (Va.) and Chris Chocola (Ind.), have fallen behind their Democratic challengers.

Democrats moved quickly yesterday to tie Ney's handpicked successor to Ney and Ohio's scandal-scarred Republican governor, Bob Taft.

The race to succeed Ney will test whether a scandal "can still cause collateral damage," said Amy Walter, a House political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Less than 100 days before the election, are the views of Ohio voters on Congress, on Republicans, already calcified, regardless of their views on the individual candidates on the ballot?"

No other congressional Republican was in as much legal jeopardy as Ney, who was labeled "Representative No. 1" in the guilty pleas of Abramoff and three co-conspirators, including longtime Ney chief of staff Neil G. Volz.

Court documents say Ney helped secure government contracts, pressed the gambling interests of Indian tribes and helped stave off minimum-wage legislation for a garment maker in the Northern Mariana Islands, all at Abramoff's behest. Ney made floor speeches and inserted helpful statements in the Congressional Record.

In exchange, Abramoff and his associates lavished Ney with a golf vacation to Scotland, a trip to the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona, restaurant meals and entertainment, including tickets to a U2 concert. Ney has not been charged with any crime.

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