Friday, November 03, 2006

Ney's Office Wouldn't Respond To Raw

Congressman Bob Ney (OH-Rep.) formally resigned today.

Who would have guessed that?

Flashback to April at Raw Story:

A pre-trial motion filed by federal prosecutors in the case of indicted former Bush Administration official David Safavian contends that his share of the costs in a trip to play golf in Scotland and England arranged by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff should have been nearly five times more than what he paid, RAW STORY has found.

Perhaps more significantly, however, it also provides the first formal evidence that powerful Ohio Republican Bob Ney – then chairman of the House Administration Committee – provided false figures for the cost of his own trip to Scotland. Ney has been under fire for his role in allegedly helping Abramoff aid his clients in violation of House ethics rules and possibly federal laws.

Ney was referenced as “Congressman #1” in a plea agreement Abramoff made in January, in which he admitted to bribing members of Congress and their staffs.

David Safavian, chief of staff of the United States General Services Administration (GSA) at the time, paid Abramoff $3,100 for a trip that prosecutors say "was in excess of $130,000." According to The Washington Post, tax records show that a non-profit owned by Abramoff, the Capital Athletic Foundation, doled out $150,225 for the trip.

A footnote contained in the government’s motion for pretrial determination of certain evidence – which includes hundreds of emails between Safavian and Abramoff, which prosecutors allege prove a business relationship between the two – notes that “Mr. Safavian’s pro rated cost [for the trip] would have been approximately $15,000.”

Safavian’s attorney Barbara Van Gelder provided RAW STORY a copy of Safavian’s response. In it, Van Gelder asserts that Safavian has never said he paid an equal share and was in the dark about the total cost of the trip. Moreover, she argues that the government should not be able to present “evidence of offenses not charged in the indictment.”

Ney, however, was obliged under Congressional rules to provide a “good faith” estimate of his share of the trip’s actual cost. He has also come under fire for other elements of the trip.

From Ney's plea agreement signed on September 13:

As part of the conspiracy described in paragraphs 8 through 11 and the substantive false statement violations set forth in counts 2 and 3 of the Information, NEY knowingly concealed and misrepresented his receipt of the stream of things of value from Abramoff, Volz, Rudy, Scanlon, the Foreign Businessman, and others by, among other things, falsifying the following forms:

a. Travel Disclosure Forms

i. NEY's August 2002 trip to Scotland: On September 9, 2002, NEY signed and eventually caused to be filed his Member Travel Disclosure Form for the August 2002 Scotland golf trip. On that form, NEY substantially under reported the costs paid by Abramoff and his clients and mischaracterized the purpose of the trip.

Back to Raw Story's "Court filing in case of indicted Bush official suggests Ohio congressman provided false report to Congress," which I co-wrote with John Byrne in April:

On September 9, 2002, a month after returning from the trip, Ney filed a form with the Clerk of the House of the Representatives which indicated that his share of the trip was $3200. He reported $1,500 for travel, $1,200 for lodging and $500 for meal expenses.

According to the prosecutors’ estimate, Ney likely should have reported the trip at $15,000. Ney's office did not respond to a call placed for comment Friday.

Back to Ney's plea agreement:

b. Annual Financial Disclosure Forms NEY's 2002 Financial Disclosure Form: On May 15, 2003, NEY signed and caused to be filed his Annual Financial Disclosure Statement for calendar year 2002 in which NEY mischaracterized the purpose of the trip, and failed to disclose as gifts the golf expenses from the Scotland trip as well as the tickets, meals and entertainment provided by Abramoff, Volz, and other lobbyists working with Abramoff. On June 2, 2003, and again on June 18, 2004, NEY filed amended financial disclosure forms for calendar year 2002, in which NEY made the same material false statements and omissions as with the original filing.

Back to our story at Raw:

Ney has not been charged with any crime, and no ethics complaint has been filed against him in the House. The Ohio Republican says he welcomes any Ethics Committee inquiry, which he believes will clear his name.

Back to Ney's plea agreement:

The preceding statement is a summary, made for the purpose of providing the Court with a factual basis for my guilty plea to the charges against me. It does not include all of the facts known to me concerning criminal activity in which I and others engaged. I am competent to make this statement and I do so knowingly and voluntarily and because I am in fact guilty of the crimes charged. I have discussed this factual basis with my attorneys, and I understand that under the terms of the plea agreement this statement is admissible as evidence against me if my plea of guilty is not entered or if I otherwise fail to comply with the plea agreement.

Back to Raw in April:

Safavian’s lawyer says she believes her client will ultimately be cleared, citing numerous discrepancies in the government’s case. She notes that the prosecutors maintained in a filing that Abramoff was a lobbyist who did all his lobbying on Capitol Hill and had no business before the agency where Safavian worked.

"I think my client is innocent and that after a full and fair presentation of the relevant evidence he should be acquitted of all charges," Van Gelder said.

Last Friday, Safavian was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for lying and obstruction of justice.

On January 19, 2007, former Congressman Bob Ney, facing as much as twenty-seven months in prison and half-a-million dollars in fines, is due to learn his fate.


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