Six-term Congressman Bob Ney became the latest Republican crook to bite the dust when he agreed last week to plead guilty to sweeping federal corruption charges and face a 27-month prison term.

Ney, who represents Ohio’s 18th Congressional District in the southeastern part of the state, resigned from two more House committees he had led. He previously resigned chairmanship of the powerful House Administration Committee last January when news broke that he was implicated in bribery scandals surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff. At the time, Ney staunchly maintained his innocence.

But Ney’s cookies started crumbling when former aide Neil Volz, along with Tony Rudy, aide to disgraced former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, began singing to federal prosecutors last February about how Ney had solicited gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for official favors.

According to the Justice Department, the gifts included a golf trip to Scotland in 2002 with Abramoff and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed; a vacation and gambling trip to New Orleans in 2003; a trip to an exclusive Lake George, N.Y., resort in 2003 with costs exceeding $170,000; thousands of dollars’ worth of meals and tickets to concerts and sporting events; and tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

In exchange, Ney backed legislation, placed endorsements in the Congressional Record, arranged a contract to install cell phone wiring in the House of Representatives and provided assistance sought by Abramoff for his clients.

In addition, federal prosecutors revealed Ney and several staffers received thousands of dollars worth of gambling chips at a London casino in 2003 from the owner of a company seeking to sell U.S. airplane parts to Iran. In exchange, Ney agreed to help get around U.S. sanctions against Iran and to get the man a U.S. visa. Ney, whose trip to London was paid for by thrice-convicted felon Nigel Winfield, left the casino with over $50,000 in winnings, some of which he illegally smuggled through U.S. Customs.

Had Ney not agreed to file a guilty plea, he would have faced, if convicted, a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Unlike DeLay and former California Rep. Randy Cunningham, who admitted to bribery by defense contractors, Ney has yet to resign his House seat. He did belatedly withdraw from his re-election race under heavy pressure from the Ohio Republican Party, which greatly feared loss of a seat. Because Ney maintained his innocence until long after last May’s Republican primary, a special Sept. 14 primary became necessary, costing taxpayers $500,000.

The reason Ney has not left may be that Gov. Bob Taft could then be forced to hold another special election to fill out Ney’s term. This could hurt the prospects for Ney’s chosen successor, state Sen. Joy Padgett, who won the primary. Her Democratic opponent, Dover law director Zack Space, is making ethics the centerpiece of his campaign and charges that Padgett, handpicked by Ney, is “cut from the same cloth.”

Like all Ohio Republicans, Padgett is under the cloud of Taft administration corruption scandals. Taft pled no contest last year to four misdemeanors stemming from a corruption probe into Tom Noe, President Bush’s chief 2004 Ohio fund-raiser. Noe has been sentenced to prison for illegally funneling money to the Bush campaign and was indicted in February on 53 felony charges involving theft of millions of dollars from an investment fund he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

Whenever Ney does leave, his presence in Congress will be sorely missed by right-wing groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Right to Life Committee, English First and the National Rifle Association, who have given him highest approval ratings for voting 100 percent of the time on behalf of their interests.

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