WASHINGTON IN BRIEF

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ney to Plead Guilty in Abramoff Case

Pressed by Republican House colleagues to resign, Rep. Robert W. Ney (Ohio) is the first congressman to fall in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling case, a controversy that has reached the Bush White House and Capitol Hill.

In his sixth term, Ney is to plead guilty today to a pair of felonies that could send him to prison for up to 10 years.

Ney signed papers a month ago admitting to charges of conspiracy and making false statements, acknowledging that he had deprived the public of his honest services.

The congressman said he took tens of thousands of dollars worth of trips, sports tickets, campaign contributions, meals and casino chips in exchange for legislation and public statements supporting Abramoff's clients and a foreign businessman.

With the Justice Department recommending 27 months behind bars for Ney, the congressman may announce his decision to step down when he appears before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, an appointee of President Bill Clinton.

Longtime Washington lawyer Stephen Ryan said "the most likely event" is that Ney will quit in front of the judge because that would represent acceptance of responsibility for his crimes, a critical issue with regard to the length of his prison term.

Ney checked into an alcohol rehabilitation program in September.

Campaign Finance Rules Targeted

Campaign finance watchdog groups filed complaints against two independent political groups yesterday, asking the Federal Election Commission to tighten its regulations on nonprofit organizations that run political advertising.

The complaints, filed by Washington-based Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, contend that Democratic-leaning Majority Action and the Republican-leaning Economic Freedom Fund are taking advantage of a loophole in campaign finance law by collecting unlimited amounts of money to run ads against political candidates.

"The FEC is failing its job so far by sitting on the sidelines and allowing all this unlimited soft money to improperly be spent on attack ads and other communications in the 2006 congressional races," Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said. "They have not told these groups they can do this and they have not told the groups they can't do this."

A 2002 campaign finance law banned the national political parties from collecting unlimited amounts of money and placed restrictions on the use of corporate or union money to pay for some political ads. But the law did not specifically address political activities by what are known as 527 organizations -- nonprofit groups named for the section of the Internal Revenue Service code under which they are organized.

Majority Action, whose backers include some top Democratic Party luminaries, has been financed with large donations from major Democratic donors. Most of the Economic Freedom Fund's money comes from Bob Perry of Texas, who helped finance Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which ran ads against John F. Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign.

-- From News Services

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