News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Saturday, January 14, 2006 | Ney pressured to quit House chairmanship over Abramoff scandal

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Dennis Hastert is trying to force out Ohio Rep. Bob Ney as chairman of the House Administration Committee, a week after Justice Department documents linked Ney to a bribery scheme involving convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Ney's committee has jurisdiction over the Republican reform agenda in the wake of the Abramoff scandal, and Hastert believes it is inappropriate to let Ney run it, said a GOP leadership aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the negotiations between Ney and the speaker.

Ney, who was in New Orleans for a hearing on housing needs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, confirmed that he is talking with Hastert about stepping down from the chairmanship.

"I'm considering it _ stepping down temporarily _ and once the issue is over, I'll come back," said Ney, an Ohio Republican. "Life continues. I'll continue to do my job."

Ney said there is so much controversy about Abramoff that he did not want to get in the way of Congress continuing its work.

The aide said the speaker himself cannot fire Ney, and unless Ney steps aside it would be at least three weeks until the GOP caucus, on holiday break, could consider removing him.

Ney continues to argue that he has done nothing wrong. But a Republican close to Ney said the congressman would evaluate what is best for the Republican conference.

The development comes after Abramoff's plea agreement this month in an influence peddling scandal involving members of Congress.

Among other accusations, Abramoff said Ney took favors including a 2002 golf trip to Scotland, free dinners and events and campaign donations in exchange for his support of Abramoff's American Indian tribe clients in Texas and the lobbyist's purchase of a fleet of Florida casino boats.

Court papers released as part of Abramoff's plea to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and income tax evasion detailed lavish gifts and contributions that Abramoff says he gave an unnamed House member, identified elsewhere as Ney.

Other accusations include that Ney supported legislation to help a California Indian tribe with taxes and a post office and, as chairman of the Administration Committee, approved a lucrative deal for an Abramoff client to improve cell phone reception in House buildings.

An Israeli communications company, Foxcom Wireless, received the contract and Abramoff admits to lobbying for Foxcom without reporting it. Ney's lawyer, Mark Tuohey, has said Ney held an open bidding process for the contract and Ney denies ever talking to Abramoff about the deal.

The development regarding Ney's chairmanship comes as House and Senate Republicans scramble to devise a plan that would go well beyond current rules governing travel, gifts and lobbying by former members of Congress and their aides, as part of an effort to curtail the influence of lobbyists on lawmakers.

Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., have floated various proposals, including banning gifts and privately funded travel, ending lobbying by lawmakers' spouses and restricting access by former members of Congress to the floors of the House and Senate as Republicans are struggling to escape fallout from a congressional corruption scandal.

Congressional Democrats will introduce their reform proposals next week, and the bidding war seems to guarantee changes that would dramatically change the rules.

Ney was elected to Congress from an expansive, rural east-central Ohio district in 1994. He won a sixth term in 2004 with 66 percent of the vote, was unopposed in 2002 and hasn't earned less than 60 percent in any election since 1996.

Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, is also among those facing scrutiny for his associations with Abramoff, including an earlier trip to Scotland and use of Abramoff's skybox at a Washington sports arena. DeLay relinquished his leadership post after his indictment on state felony charges in Texas, and he permanently gave up the post a week ago, sparking a three-man race - Investigators looking into California�lawmaker's ties to Abramoff - Jan 13, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- California Republican Rep. John Doolittle secured a coveted spot in the House GOP leadership partly on the strength of his ties to Tom DeLay, and he called lobbyist Jack Abramoff a good friend.

Those once-useful connections are coming back to haunt Doolittle, now that Abramoff has pleaded guilty in a congressional lobbying scandal and DeLay has given up his majority leader post after being charged in a money laundering investigation in Texas.

Along with DeLay, Doolittle has caught the attention of federal investigators for his dealings with Abramoff. He accepted campaign money from Abramoff and used the lobbyist's luxury sports box for a fundraiser without initially reporting it; Doolittle's wife and one of his former aides also worked for Abramoff.

Doolittle denies wrongdoing. His spokeswoman said he has not been contacted by the Justice Department or the FBI. But at least one of his GOP colleagues said Doolittle has some explaining to do.

"I think he needs to define clearly what his issues are, if they exist, and otherwise I think it will become difficult for him to continue" in his leadership post, Rep. Charlie Bass, R-New Hampshire, said this week.

A number of rank-and-file House Republicans are calling for new elections for the entire GOP leadership -- with the exception of the House speaker -- in February, which would force Doolittle to campaign for his leadership job amid widespread concern over the Abramoff scandal.

"It's important that with this election we move forward in the most positive way we can, and that would include looking at any baggage that any member may have," said Rep. Mary Bono, R-California.

Doolittle serves as Republican Conference secretary, a post that gives him a seat at the table when the speaker, majority leader and others meet. Doolittle's spokeswoman dismissed concerns about his ability to keep the job.

"Mr. Doolittle is not concerned about the media's irresponsible speculation affecting his leadership position," said spokeswoman Laura Blackann. Any suggestion that Doolittle may be improperly involved in Abramoff's criminal activity "is based on irresponsible speculation by the media and is completely without merit," she said.

Doolittle is unlikely to lose re-election in his rural Northern California district, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 48 percent to 30 percent. He won re-election in 2004 with 65 percent of the vote.

He is among the most conservative members of California's GOP House delegation. He's been a staunch DeLay ally, distributing lapel pins in the shape of tiny hammers to colleagues last year after DeLay was indicted on campaign finance charges in Texas. DeLay's nickname is "The Hammer."

His connections to Abramoff include:

Doolittle's wife, Julie, ran a fundraising company, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions Inc., that did fundraising work for Abramoff. Sierra Dominion's records were subpoenaed in 2004 by the grand jury looking into the Abramoff case.

Kevin Ring, a Doolittle aide from 1994 to 1997, later worked as a lobbyist under Abramoff. Ring refused to answer questions before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigating the scandal last summer, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Doolittle was among more than two dozen lawmakers who signed a February 2002 letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton urging her to reject an Indian casino opposed by Abramoff's tribal clients. Doolittle received $1,000 from Abramoff several weeks before he signed the group letter, then got $16,000 from two of Abramoff's casino-operating tribal clients about two months later. By year's end, Doolittle also had used Abramoff's Washington restaurant to cater a campaign event and received an additional $15,000 from tribes.

Doolittle used Abramoff's luxury sports box at a Washington sports arena for a fundraiser, failing to report the value of the box, as required, until The Washington Post ran a story on it.

Doolittle accepted a total of $4,000 from Abramoff, and another $46,000 from Abramoff's tribal clients, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Unlike many other lawmakers who have rushed to shed Abramoff's money, Doolittle has no plans to get rid of the cash, saying he refuses to give the appearance he's done something wrong by returning money that was legally and ethically received.


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