"Scanlon and Lobbyist A would offer and provide things of value to federal public officials, including trips, campaign contributions, meals and entertainment in exchange for agreements that the public officials would use their official positions and influence to benefit Scanlon's and Lobbyist A's clients and Lobbyist A's businesses."

-- Criminal information, filed Nov. 18,

against public relations executive

Michael Scanlon.

IN THE dispassionate language of criminal law, the scandal of the rapacious duo of Jack Abramoff (Lobbyist A) and Michael Scanlon reached a new -- and for at least one member of Congress -- ominous level last week. Mr. Scanlon pleaded guilty on Monday to a conspiracy to bribe public officials and defraud his Indian tribal clients; he agreed to pay $19 million in restitution to the tribes -- the size of the kickbacks he gave to Mr. Abramoff -- and he faces up to five years in prison.

With his promise to cooperate with prosecutors, Mr. Scanlon may also be the most dangerous man in Washington right now -- certainly to Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), identified in the information as Representative #1, and possibly to others as well.

In September, in the first criminal charges arising from the federal investigation into Mr. Abramoff's lobbying activities, the administration's former chief procurement officer, David H. Safavian, was accused of lying about his dealings with the lobbyist. Now, with the Scanlon guilty plea, the attention has shifted back to Congress, where Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), did most of their business.

As the information describes their activities, Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon "provided a stream of things of value to Representative #1 and members of his staff, including but not limited to a lavish trip to Scotland to play golf on world famous courses, tickets to sporting events and other entertainment, regular meals at Lobbyist A's upscale restaurant, and campaign contributions for Representative #1, his political action committee, and other political committees on behalf of Representative #1."

At the same time, it continues, they "sought and received Representative #1's agreement to perform a series of official acts, including but not limited to, agreements to support and pass legislation, agreements to place statements into the Congressional Record, meetings with Lobbyist A and Scanlon's clients, and advancing the application of a client of Lobbyist A for a license to install wireless telephone infrastructure in the House of Representatives."

Washington players walk a blurry line between bribery and business as usual. If lobbyists lavish perks on, and write campaign checks for, powerful members of Congress, and those members then take actions that benefit the lobbyists' clients, that may be the ordinary, if distasteful, way Washington operates. But if the lobbyists' favors are conditioned on an understanding that legislative favors have been or will be performed, that would transform the transaction from quotidian to criminal.

Mr. Ney's lawyer, Mark H. Tuohey, says it's the former that happened in the congressman's case. "He was wined and dined the way lots of political people are, and he did some official acts, but there's no connection between the two," Mr. Tuohey told The Post.

The Justice Department sees the situation in a more sinister light: "Corruption Scheme" is the heading given to the section of the charges involving Mr. Ney.