Ney pleads guilty in lobbying scandal

Hillary Wicai Sep 15, 2006

BOB MOON: There’s been talk for a long time. Rumors that the corruption scandal around former super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff might take down members of Congress. Well, today we have a first. Ohio Congressman Bob Ney has agreed to plead guilty to a couple of criminal charges. As Marketplace’s Hillary Wicai reports, it might involve some prison time.

HILLARY WICAI: Republican Congressman Bob Ney admitted that he solicited and accepted several trips, including a golf vacation to Scotland worth $160,000. He says he accepted thousands of dollars worth of free meals from Abramoff’s Washington restaurant. He accepted tickets to numerous concerts and games and tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, all in return for doing a few favors. Like, helping one of Abramoff’s clients get a multimillion-dollar contract to install the wireless telephone infrastructure in the House of Representatives.

Former federal prosecutor Melanie Sloane is with nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

MELANIE SLOANE:“What the Justice Department didn’t charge him with here — and this is part of the plea agreement — is that he didn’t get charged with bribery. But that’s basically what he did. The plea agreements go around it but say that, basically, Bob Ney took a lot of legislative actions on behalf of Jack Abramoff in return for things like a golf trip to Scotland.”

Ney faces up to 10 years in prison, but the plea agreement with the government recommends a sentence of 27 months. Political analyst and author David Mark says the deal speaks to the strength of the case prosecutors had against Ney.

DAVID MARK:“He clearly knew that prosecutors had some pretty strong evidence against him. Otherwise, I seriously doubt he would’ve agreed to this. He denied any kind of guilt for months, even years.”

Ney announced today that he’s checking into an alcohol treatment program. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in mid-October to enter his plea.

In Washington, I’m Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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