WASHINGTON — The Tigua of El Paso, an Indian tribe and former client of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, released a photo Tuesday of a meeting that members had with Ohio Republican Rep Bob Ney — a meeting the congressman told Senate investigators he did not remember having.
The photo, which was taken on Aug. 14, 2002, in a House hearing room, shows the Tigua tribe's Lt. Gov. Carlos Hisa and tribal council member Raul Gutierrez with Ney. Less than a week earlier, Ney had returned from an expenses-paid golf junket to Scotland with Abramoff, Ralph Reed, David Safavian, Neil Volz and others.
On Nov. 12, 2004, in an interview with Senate investigators, Ney said that "he was not familiar with the Tigua." But the report quotes tribal representatives as testifying that they met with Ney for about two hours and he assured them he could help with legislation.
Ney told the investigators that he "could not recall ever meeting with any member of the Tigua." Ney's lawyer later said the congressman's schedule for that day showed a half-hour meeting with the "Taqua." A spokesman for Ney, Brian Walsh, said the congressman simply could not recall that the tribe was also known by another name, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Indian Tribe of El Paso, Texas.
Hisa said in a telephone interview that Ney "had a terrible sunburn. He was red like a lobster from that Scotland trip." Hisa said his tribe was asked to pay $50,000 for the trip, but they refused — other tribal clients of Abramoff's paid more than $100,000 to cover the expenses.
Hisa also said it was "strange" that Ney told Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigators that he didn't remember meeting with the Tigua.
Accepts money from tribe
Ney accepted $32,000 from the tribe and had agreed to put legislative language in a bill to reopen a closed gambling casino it owned. The measure never became law because it lacked Senate support. E-mails released by the committee show that Abramoff and Ney knew in July 2002 that the Tigua's provision in the Election Reform Bill was dead in the Senate but didn't tell the tribe until that October.
Ney's comments to the committee could complicate his problems with the Justice Department.
Ney told the committee he never knew that tribal money financed the golf trip. He said he thought the costs were covered by a private foundation. The report said: "Congressman Ney said the purpose of the trip was to raise money for underprivileged kids in Scotland and Washington, D.C. The itinerary consisted of golfing, meeting two parliamentarians, and watching the Marine Band."
The meetings with Scottish parliamentarians never took place. And according to testimony by Ney's former chief of staff Neil Volz, the trip amounted to $100 rounds of drinks, $400 rounds of golf and expensive hotel rooms.
Volz, Reed, Ney, Abramoff and David Safavian — who was convicted of four counts of lying and obstruction — were all part of the golf party to Scotland and London in 2002.
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Walsh, Ney's spokesman, has said the Senate report merely shows just how far Abramoff and his conspirators, who "have pleaded guilty to deceiving their clients, employers and members of Congress, would go to further their own greed."
Five people have pleaded guilty or been convicted of influence peddling — Volz, Abramoff and two former aides to former Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay, Tony Rudy and Michael Scanlon. Safavian has been the only person caught up in the Abramoff scandal to be convicted at trial.
The Justice Department's investigation is continuing.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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