Almost every political fall has a postscript, so it’s no surprise that former Rep. Bob Ney has written a memoir. What is a surprise is Ney’s unsparing profile of Speaker John Boehner.
In Ney’s “Sideswiped: Lessons Learned Courtesy of the Hit Men of Capitol Hill,” Boehner is portrayed as more concerned about fundraising and fun than governing. “Many felt his money-raising focus would make up for his lack of concern about legislation — he was considered a man who was all about winning and money,” writes Ney. “He was a chain-smoking, relentless wine drinker who was more interested in the high life — golf, women, cigarettes, fun, and alcohol.”
Ney goes on to say that Boehner was lazy, took thousands of dollars in booze, food and golf games from lobbyists, and repeatedly slid around ethics rules: “John got away with more than any other member on the Hill” because he was well-liked and well-protected by his staff.
Then again, Ney has plenty of his own issues — the self-described alcoholic was a major player in the Jack Abramoff scandal, pled guilty to corruption charges and spent more than a year in prison.
“This is a convicted felon with a history of failing to tell the truth making a lot of baseless accusations to try and sell books,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told us. “More than anything else, it’s sad.”
Ney, 58, doesn’t see it that way. He had a spectacular rise — he was elected to Congress in 1994 (the first Republican to win Ohio’s 18th district in more than 50 years) and quickly rose to chair of the powerful House Administration Committee — and a spectacular fall fueled by ethical lapses and booze, leaving him twice-divorced, broke and suicidal. He claims that Boehner — in an effort to distance other members from the Abramoff scandal — promised Ney a cushy private-sector job and money for legal fees if he resigned in 2006.
Ney left Congress, but the job and cash never materialized. (Boehner’s spokesman said the story is untrue.) “I don’t hate him now,” said Ney. “At the time, I was furious with him.”
Ney takes responsibility for his mistakes and criminal behavior. “I’m not bitter,” he told us Tuesday. “I’ve picked up the pieces. I have been treated better by members than I should have — I would have crossed the street to avoid me.”
He said he decided to write the book not to settle scores, but to help people understand what really goes on in Washington. There’s no love lost for former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: “I can’t stand him. How he looks in the mirror every day is beyond me.” Ney’s still a Republican, not that fond of the “Bushies,” saying his biggest regret is not the Abramoff scandal but voting for the Iraq war. Mostly, he wants to do something about Congress’s “drug of choice” — campaign funds.
Now sober and doing weekly radio commentaries, Ney said he’s finished with politics: “I think about it now and then — but I’m done. That’s an addiction in itself.”
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