By Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 5, 2007
Federal prosecutors seeking a stiff prison sentence for former Ohio congressman Robert W. Ney have listed previously undisclosed favors that he and his staff provided to clients of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, including two Russian energy executives who have been linked to former House majority leader Tom DeLay.
Ney pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy, admitting that he performed official acts for lobbyists in exchange for campaign contributions, expensive meals, luxury travel and skybox sports tickets. He is to be sentenced Jan. 19.
The Republican congressman and his staff offered to aid Abramoff's clients in the summer of 2003 as Ney prepared for a trip to Russia, according to newly released e-mails attached to a Justice Department filing in federal court late Wednesday. Abramoff's lobbying team got the congressman to intervene with the U.S. Consulate in Moscow to help resolve a passport issue for the daughter of Abramoff client Alexander Koulakovsky, the e-mails show.
Koulakovsky and his business partner, Marina Nevskaya, hired Abramoff to help them arrange meetings with DeLay and to lobby for federal aid to their businesses. The Russian executives helped pay for a trip to Moscow taken by DeLay, his wife and aides in 1997.
A charity sponsored by DeLay received a $1 million check from a London law firm linked to the two. Former charity officials told The Washington Post last year the donation originated with Russian oil and gas executives, and was intended to influence DeLay's vote on an issue affecting the Russian economy.
Ney's chief of staff messaged an Abramoff colleague on July 28, 2003, noting that Ney's former chief of staff, Neil Volz -- who had joined Abramoff's firm -- had told them of the coming trip to Russia. "Anything we can do?" the e-mail asked.
Abramoff's team seized the chance, asking Ney to press consular officials on the passport issue, according to an e-mail that Volz sent to Abramoff. Embassy officials had their own interests in seeing the congressman -- they wanted Ney to meet Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a post-Soviet-era energy tycoon then under pressure from President Vladimir Putin. Ney obliged.
"Bob did not quid pro quo or anything, but decided to become a little more flexible on meeting with Khodorkovsky . . . and they became more flexible on the passport . . . Bob suggested they would have given him the passport ultimately -- no matter what, so he suggested that we just let Alexander and Marina know the consulate gave him the passport because a member of Congress asked for it," wrote Volz, who has also pleaded guilty in the corruption probe.
Ney has acknowledged that shortly after his return from that trip, Volz treated him and a staffer to a stay at a luxury hotel in Lake George, N.Y.