Bob Ney is Talking to the Feds: Too Little, Too Late?

Rep. Bob Ney is trying to talk the feds out of indicting him.

Mr. Ney is working intensely to convince Justice Department prosecutors that he was tricked by Mr. Abramoff into doing favors for the lobbyist's clients. He and his lawyers are presenting evidence they hope will counter allegations by Mr. Abramoff, who agreed to testify in the corruption case in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Mr. Ney has shown credit card receipts to prosecutors to demonstrate that he paid for his own meals at Signatures, the restaurant that Mr. Abramoff once owned, participants in the case have said. His lawyers have gone through thousands of Mr. Ney's e-mail messages in an effort to determine that he did not put his involvement in any bribery scheme, if there was any, into writing.

That's very nice that he paid for some meals at Signatures. But that's the least of his problems.

Among the most damaging assertions by Mr. Abramoff is that Mr. Ney knew that an expensive golfing trip to Scotland in 2002 was being financed by the lobbyist around the time that Mr. Ney was pushing a measure in Congress beneficial to one of Mr. Abramoff's Indian tribe clients. That, some participants in the case believe, may have amounted to bribery.

Another example of how Mr. Ney sought to assist Mr. Abramoff comes from the lawmaker's entries into the Congressional Record at the time the lobbyist was trying to buy the SunCruz casino boat line in Florida. The comments heaped praise on Adam Kidan, Mr. Abramoff's business partner in the SunCruz deal, who has since pleaded guilty in the Florida case.

In a statement entered into the record on Oct. 26, 2000, Mr. Ney described Mr. Kidan as having "a renowned reputation for honesty and integrity." Within weeks, Mr. Kidan and others were hosts of a fund-raiser for Mr. Ney in an MCI Center skybox in Washington rented by Mr. Abramoff.

Then there are these allegations against Ney:

According to Mr. Abramoff's plea agreement, Mr. Ney provided a stream of official favors to Mr. Abramoff and his associates. In one case, the court papers say, Mr. Ney helped an Israeli company win a contract in 2001 to provide wireless service to Congress.

The next year, Mr. Ney made an "agreement," as the plea deal calls it, with Mr. Abramoff that he would introduce legislation benefiting Mr. Abramoff's Indian tribe clients. At the same time, Mr. Abramoff directed tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Mr. Ney, including $10,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, at Mr. Ney's request, the plea agreement states.

It's not just Abramoff who is delivering Ney to the feds. Michael Scanlon is as well.

Mr. Scanlon has told investigators that he had a conversation with Mr. Ney about arranging the October remarks, and also dealt with Neil G. Volz, then Mr. Ney's chief of staff, participants in the case have said. Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff have said they believed Mr. Ney was acting in exchange for the flow of campaign donations and favors they arranged.

Mr. Volz, who joined Mr. Abramoff at the firm Greenberg Traurig in 2002 after working for Mr. Ney, is facing his own set of legal problems, including allegations set forth in the Abramoff plea deal that he violated the rule barring Congressional staff members from lobbying their former bosses for one year after leaving Capitol Hill. Mr. Volz resigned from his most recent job, at the law firm Barnes & Thornburg, this month.

I think Ney's efforts to convince prosecutors he did nothing wrong is going to backfire. The feds have already picked the horse they intend to ride home on, and it's Abramoff. Ney is just going to dig himself into a deeper hole and end up being a corroborating witness against himself. He ought to save his evidence for the jury rather than previewing it for the Government. If the feds didn't believe Abramoff who has been cooperating for 18 months, they wouldn't have given him a deal. Here's what Abramoff says:

In an interview in The New York Times Magazine last year, Mr. Abramoff said: "Ney told the press, 'I was duped'? It's crazy!" Mr. Abramoff has given similar accounts to prosecutors.

I can understand that Ney is in desperate straits, but it's way past the time he can talk his way out of this. The jails are full of people who thought if they could only tell their side of the story, they'd be home free. He should have beaten Abramoff to the punch... since he didn't, he needs to accept that he's going to be indicted and save his best shot for trial.

  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft