Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio has been subpoenaed to provide documents and testimony related to the government’s investigation of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said Friday the Justice Department had requested documents. It was later announced on the floor of the House that Ney, a Republican, was served with a grand jury subpoena, issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Abramoff is under investigation for his lobbying activities on behalf of Indian tribes and his role in paying for overseas trips for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The Texas Republican has denied knowing Abramoff paid the expenses.
Adding to recent Republican troubles, the Congressional Record shows Ney is the first lawmaker subpoenaed in the Abramoff case.
Ney, the chairman of the House Administration Committee, is called “the mayor of Capitol Hill” for the power he wields over member offices, parking spaces and security measures.
In addition to the Justice Department’s public integrity section and the Interior Department, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has been investigating Abramoff, and chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has concluded Abramoff and an associate bilked millions of dollars from tribal clients.
Abramoff indicted for fraud and conspiracy
Separately, Abramoff has pleaded innocent to a six-count federal fraud and conspiracy indictment stemming from his role in the 2000 purchase of a fleet of gambling boats in Florida.
Ney took an Abramoff-sponsored golf trip to Scotland in 2002. Indian Affairs investigators, meanwhile, found an e-mail from Abramoff claiming Ney had promised to help a Texas Indian tribe reopen a closed casino and subsequent e-mails directing the tribe to pay Ney $32,000.
In 2000, Ney entered comments in the Congressional Record criticizing the owner of some casino boats Abramoff wanted to purchase. In all three cases, Ney said, Abramoff had misled him.
“I voluntarily provided information to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last year and I have offered to make myself available to meet with the House Ethics Committee,” Ney said in a statement. “I believe, however, that although the government’s investigation of Mr. Abramoff has been well-publicized through other sources, it is inappropriate for my office to comment in any detail about an ongoing investigation.”
Ney asked ethics committee to investigate
Ney has twice asked the ethics committee to look into his ties to Abramoff, but until Thursday, the committee did not have a staff director and was not conducting any investigations. DeLay also requested an ethics investigation after it was reported that he went on the same Scotland golf trip two years before Ney.
Walsh said Friday that Ney has not been notified that he is the target of any investigation and had informed House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., of the subpoena.
“There have been a litany of unfounded allegations made against the congressman by the Washington media in recent months and he looks forward to addressing them as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible with the appropriate entities looking into the Abramoff matter,” Walsh said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Walsh has repeatedly said the ties to Abramoff were exaggerated as a part of a coordinated Democratic Party effort to oust Ney from his rural district. The Ohio Democratic Party on Friday called on Ney to step down temporarily as Administration Committee chairman.
More than $130,000 in legal bills
“Don’t drag the nation through sordid articles, ethical questions and the legal grand jury process,” party spokesman Brian Rothenberg said. “The very fact that Bob Ney has been subpoenaed and is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills out of his campaign funds tells you the severity of the situation.”
According to federal election filings, Ney’s re-election campaign spent nearly $136,000 from July to September — more than half of all expenses for the quarter — on Washington lawyer Mark Tuohey and his team to handle the allegations related to Abramoff.
Before filing notice with the House on Friday afternoon, Walsh referred all questions about a subpoena to Tuohey. The lawyer did not return several calls and e-mails seeking comment Thursday and Friday.
Television ads calling on Ney to return $24,000 his campaign had received from DeLay began airing in his district this week. Ney responded by noting billionaire George Soros had given to the group that produced and paid for the ads, Public Campaign Action Fund.