Monday, May 08, 2006

Ney Aide Pleads Guilty to Corruption Conspiracy

As Pete Yost and Mark Sherman report for the Associated Press, a former aide to Ohio Congressman Bob Ney pleaded guilty today to corruption and conspiracy charges in relation to the Jack Abramoff scandal. The aide, former Ney chief of staff Neil Volz, faces up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine, depending on his assistance to federal investigators.

After working for Ney from 1995-2002, Volz went to work as a lobbyist, first with Jack Abramoff and then at Alexander Strategy Group (ASG). ASG was a lobbying firm set up by Ed Buckham, Rep. Tom DeLay's onetime chief of staff, to trade on the contacts he and at least a dozen other lobbyists developed as congressional staffers to make a boatload of cash as lobbyists.

In the "criminal information" (a statement of the facts underlying a guilty plea) Volz signed in connection with his guilty plea, he admits offering gifts to Ney in exchange for Ney taking actions to benefit Abramoff's and eventually Volz's lobbying clients.

At least four people to plead guilty in connection with the Abramoff corruption scandal have now mentioned Ney in their guilty pleas, including Michael Scanlon, Tony Rudy, Jack Abramoff, and Mr. Volz.

Ney's response to today's events was curious: " ... After reviewing today's plea agreement against Neil Volz which is thin at best, the congressman is more confident than ever that he will be vindicated in this matter," said Ney spokesman Sean Walsh.

Ney is confident in his innocence after he reads the plea deal? What kind of confidence must that inspire in his constituents.

The legal case against Ney grows stronger with each new guilty plea corroborating his complicity in the corruption scheme. Bribery cases are often difficult to prove because they require a specific agreement to exchange money or gifts for official acts, not an easy thing without a wire or a person on the inside. In this case, we have four people on the inside who have now sworn to Ney's involvement in the scheme.

While prosecutors have yet to make their legal case against Ney, the verdict as to his fitness for office is in: he should resign, as we advocated in January after Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to bribing Ney. The standards for holding office and for staying out of jail are not the same, at least as far as we're concerned.

Ney had no problem taking the gifts, the trips, and the campaign contributions. He had no problem standing on the floor of Congress and making statements to benefit Jack Abramoff's associates, nor writing letters on behalf of Abramoff's tribal gaming clients. Put plainly, he gets what he deserves. It's too bad the same can't be said for his constituents.

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