By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 15, 2006
Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) is expected to plead guilty in the coming days to charges stemming from his association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and he will blame a long-standing problem with alcohol for behavior that spiraled down to illegality, sources close to the congressman said last night.
Ney, known in Abramoff-related court documents as "Representative No. 1," checked into a rehabilitation clinic for alcoholism yesterday, a senior House official and personal friend said yesterday. Under pressure from Republican leaders worried about losing his seat, Ney announced this summer that he would retire from Congress at the end of the year.
Now, three House sources said, the Justice Department is expected to announce a plea agreement or an agreement to reach a plea bargain as early as tomorrow. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to preempt a legal announcement.
But Ney's Washington attorney, Mark H. Tuohey, said from London yesterday that he expected no immediate developments in the case.
Ney, a popular, soft-spoken Republican, became known as the mayor of the House for the largess he showed to fellow members from his post as chairman of the House Administration Committee. His entanglements with Abramoff, however, became his undoing.
Guilty pleas from Abramoff, two former aides to retired representative Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Ney's former chief of staff all said Ney accepted gifts and favors in exchange for official actions on behalf of Abramoff's clients. Tickets to events and expense-paid golf vacations helped win Ney's support for legislation, his insertion of comments into the congressional record and his pulling strings to secure government contracts for Abramoff's clients, according to Abramoff, former DeLay spokesman Michael Scanlon, former DeLay deputy chief of staff Tony C. Rudy and former Ney chief of staff Neil G. Volz.
For months, Ney has maintained his innocence. Aides in his office did not return calls, and Justice officials would not comment.
Voters in a special primary election in Ohio yesterday selected state Sen. Joy Padgett as the Republican nominee to succeed Ney.