With a burst of activity that ended 16 months of inaction, the House Ethics Committee on Wednesday opened investigations of a Republican and a Democrat who are subjects of federal bribery inquiries — including one lawmaker connected to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who had strong ties to Abramoff and accepted favors from him, will be investigated along with Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. A former aide to Ney pleaded guilty last week, admitting he tried to corrupt his former boss. Two businessmen have pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson.
The committee also will conduct a preliminary inquiry of whether other lawmakers were involved in a bribery scandal that led to the conviction of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif.
In another announcement, the committee said it would have investigated overseas travel by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, but it won't do so because he is soon leaving Congress. The committee does not have jurisdiction over lawmakers once they leave.
In a statement, Ney said he welcomed the investigation.
"For the last 15 months, all I have asked for is an opportunity to have the facts surrounding the Abramoff matter to be reviewed by the appropriate investigative bodies in order to have this matter addressed once and for all," said the former House Administration Committee chairman, who stepped down from his post because of an investigation by the Justice Department.
"It is for this reason that I voluntarily offered, on two separate occasions over the past year-and-a-half, to go before the Ethics Committee and to lay out the real facts of these matters, instead of having the distortions and innuendo that have been reported in the national media be taken as truth. "
Ney's former top aide, Neil Volz, admitted he conspired to corrupt Ney, his staff and other members of Congress with trips, free tickets, meals, jobs for relatives and fund-raising events.
Volz said he engaged in a conspiracy, the intent of which was "to influence members of Congress in violation of the law."
Volz enumerated 16 actions he said his old boss took on behalf of Abramoff clients. During the period from January 2000 through April 2004, Volz said Abramoff and his lobbyists gave Ney and members of his staff trips to Lake George in New York state, New Orleans, the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., in 2003, and a weeklong golfing retreat to St. Andrews in Scotland, with a second leg to London.
In addition, Volz wrote, Abramoff gave the congressman and his staff numerous tickets to concerts and sporting events in the Washington area; regular meals and drinks at restaurants including Abramoff's restaurant Signatures; and unreported use of Abramoff's box suites at the MCI Center Arena in Washington and Camden Yards Stadium in Baltimore for political fund-raisers for Ney and for candidates and political organizations he supported.