Congressman Falls Victim to Abramoff Investigation
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Republican Rep. Bob Ney abruptly abandoned his bid for re-election yesterday, becoming the latest Capitol Hill figure to fall victim to the Jack Abramoff scandal.
The six-term congressman insisted in a statement that he was innocent and said he was acting for the sake of his family.
“I must think of them first, and I can no longer put them through this ordeal,” he said.
He is the second congressman to announce his retirement in the fallout from the probe. A former majority leader, Tom DeLay of Texas, resigned from Congress earlier this year after being indicted on unrelated charges that he illegally funneled corporate contributions to GOP candidates. He has also come under suspicion for links to Abramoff.
Other victims of the scandal include the former Christian Coalition leader with ties to Abramoff who lost his bid last month for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor in Georgia, Ralph Reed.
Until his announcement, Mr. Ney had insisted that even if he were indicted, he would run for a new term in the 18th Congressional District, a conservative region of farms, mines, Appalachian hills, and Rust Belt cities in eastern and southern Ohio.
Mr. Ney has not been charged with any crimes, but court papers released from Abramoff’s guilty plea to fraud and corruption charges detailed lavish gifts and contributions that Abramoff says he gave to an unnamed House member in return for official acts, including support of Abramoff’s American Indian tribe clients in Texas. Officials have confirmed that congressman is Mr. Ney.
Mr. Ney and some of his aides, including his chief of staff, William Heaton, have been subpoenaed. Neil Volz, who was Mr. Ney’s previous chief of staff, pleaded guilty in Washington in May, saying he participated in a conspiracy to corrupt Mr. Ney, his staff, and other members of Congress.
State Senator Joy Padgett said she was prepared to run in a Republican primary to replace Mr. Ney. She told the Associated Press that Mr. Ney called her Saturday and asked her to run in his place.
The Ohio GOP chairman, Bob Bennett, said Ms. Padgett would be a formidable candidate. Mr. Ney had won at least 60% of the vote in the last four general elections, enjoying support from Republicans and Democrats.
By accident or design, the timing of Mr. Ney’s announcement works to his financial benefit. Under federal law, he is allowed to use leftover campaign funds to pay his rising legal bills. As of June 30, he had roughly $417,000 in the bank.