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Abramoff Scandal
Latest Abramoff plea targets Republican Congressman

Federal prosecutors moved closer to Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) on Monday with the guilty plea of a former staffer and lobbyist who implicated the Congressman in a wide range of tribal matters.

Ney has already faced scrutiny over his bid to help two Texas tribes reopen their casinos. He said he was "duped" into supporting the legislation by Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist who pleaded guilty to defrauding his tribal clients.

But new information supplied by Neil Volz, a former Ney staffer and former Abramoff associate, poses more troubles for the lawmaker known in court documents as "Representative #1." In exchange for "things of value," federal prosecutors allege Ney agreed to contact another member of Congress about the Texas scheme, oppose an Indian gaming study, support a Congressional medal for a tribal leader, pressure the Bush administration on behalf of a tribe and help a tribe with legislative and other matters.

Ney vehemently denied the charges yesterday and insisted that he will be cleared. "Fact will be separated from fiction," he said on Fox News in his first major media appearance since his name surfaced in connection with the Abramoff scandal.

With the help of Volz, 35, the latest Abramoff figure to plead guilty, federal prosecutors hope to land on the side of fact. "Neil Volz admits his part in the conspiracy to corruptly influence public officials in return for official acts �- both when he was a public official and when he was a lobbyist," said assistant attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the criminal division at the Department of Justice. "Americans have the right to expect a government free from corruption."

Volz worked for Ney from 1995 to 2002 before joining Abramoff's lobbying team. According to court documents, he remained in close contact with his former boss on matters of interest to tribal clients.

In the summer of 2002, just a few short months after Volz left Congress, Ney agreed to place a rider in an elections reform bill to help the Tigua Tribe and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe reopen their casinos. The tribes were on the losing end of court battles with the state of Texas and turned to Washington for help.

Volz told Ney to keep the legislation a "secret" from other members of Congress "in order to avoid angering a member of the United States Senate opposed to gaming," court documents state. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) was attorney general of Texas when he sued the tribes but has not been implicated in the scandal.

Even though the effort failed that summer, Ney reassured the Tigua Tribe that he was behind the legislation, prosecutors alleged. In meetings confirmed by tribal representatives, he told the Tiguas that Abramoff's team "effectively represented" their interests in Washington after asking Volz what he should tell them, court documents state.

As late as February 2003, Ney continued to press the issue, according to the court documents. On behalf of the Tiguas, he "agreed to seek support from a member of another committee of the House of Representatives" for the gaming legislation, although this other member was not identified by the Department of Justice.

The Texas matter wasn't the only Indian gaming issue on Ney's plate either. In July 2002, prosecutors allege he "agreed to sign a letter opposing the creation of a commission to study Indian gaming."

That summer, the National Indian Gaming Association -- whose former lobbyist has been indicted in connection with the scandal -- opposed a provision in the Interior appropriations bill to authorize the study. It was eventually killed after a contentious fight on the House floor.

Ney went to bat for Abramoff's clients on non-gaming issues as well. In August 2002, he met with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians from California and "agreed to assist in passing legislation regarding taxation" and "to assist in an issue relating to a post office of interest" to the tribe, court documents state.

In August and September of 2003, Ney "agreed to co-sign a letter to other Congressmen to garner support for awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to one of Abramoff's most important clients," prosecutors alleged. That year, Ney co-sponsored a bill to award the medal to Philip Martin, the chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Abramoff's biggest tribal client [H.R.1628: Chief Martin Congressional Gold Medal Act].

Also in 2003, Ney met with former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez on behalf of a tribe. He allegedly told Martinez that one of his "priorities would be housing for Native Americans," which never surfaced as an issue for the Congressman until his dealings with Abramoff.

Like other lawmakers, Ney was targeted by Abramoff because he held a powerful position. As chairman of the House Administration Committee, he was known as the "mayor" of Capitol Hill due to his handling of perks and benefits for lawmakers and for oversight of key legislation like the elections reform bill.

Due to the Abramoff scandal, Ney was forced to step down from the committee. But he has not ended his re-election campaign and has said he won't stop even if were indicted.

"I don't believe I'm going to be indicted," he said on Fox News yesterday.

Court Documents:
Charge of Information | Guilty Plea | Factual Proffer

Relevant Links:
Rep. Bob Ney -
Ney for Congress -