Friday, October 13, 2006

Ney Pleads Guilty

Ohio Congressman Pleads Guilty In Abramoff Probe

Plea Comes As GOP-Allied Nonprofits Stung In Report

Ohio Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Ney pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and fraud charges stemming from the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling investigation.

He was the first member of Congress convicted in the scandal that has tainted the White House as well as Capitol Hill. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

Ney abandonded months of defiant denials in September to admit guilt in the congressional corruption probe spawned by disgraced lobbyist Abramoff. [...]

Five nonprofit groups, including one of President George W. Bush's biggest supporters, may have broken tax laws and put their tax-exempt status at risk by helping Abramoff, a Senate Finance Committee report concluded.

The 600-page report issued Thursday was prepared by the committee's Democratic staff. Majority Republicans, however, had agreed to its release and joined with Democrats in issuing subpoenas for documents and e-mails cited in the report.

Among the groups named as possibly taking money from Abramoff clients and funneling it into his lobbying efforts on their behalf were Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste and the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy.

Tax-exempt groups are barred by law from being paid to lobby or do public relations.

Americans for Tax Reform is headed by Grover Norquist, a key ally of Bush and a longtime associate of Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser.

The report said Norquist's group accepted $1.5 million from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, one of Abramoff's clients. More than two-thirds of that money was then passed to Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed as part of Abramoff's lobbying efforts to block a rival tribe's proposed casino in Alabama.

Susan Ralston, a senior aide to Rove, resigned last Friday in the wake of a congressional report that listed hundreds of contacts between Abramoff and the White House.

Critics have pointed to Ralston as evidence that Rove -- and thus Bush -- are possibly closer to Abramoff than the White House has acknowledged. Ralston was Abramoff's administrative assistant at his lobbying firm and, after Bush took office, assumed the same post with Rove.

The House Government Reform Committee last week issued a report saying that based on documents supplied by Abramoff's former lobbying firm, he had 485 lobbying contacts with White House officials over three years, including 10 with Rove. [...]

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