Saturday, January 20, 2007
Former Ohio Representative Bob Ney, once chair of the House Administration Committee, received a 30-month prison term from U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle for his convictions on filing false statements and conspiracy. Prosecutors had recommended a 27-month sentence, but the judge increased it by three months because Ney's crimes involved an abuse of the public's trust in an elected official. Ney's attorney argued that his client's growing dependence on alcohol was a basis for a reduced sentence, but Judge Huvelle stated, "It wasn't an isolated aberration. It had a consistency to it: It involved significant and serious abuses of the public's trust." (see AP story here on the sentencing) The court recommended that Ney serve his term at the minimum security Morgantown FCI in West Virginia. If sent to that facility, Ney will be the second former Congressman serving time there, along with former Iowa Representative Edward Mezvinsky, sentenced on a bank fraud charge unrelated to his Congressional service in the 1970s.
Ney is the second Representative elected to the 109th Congress to be sentenced to prison on corruption charges. Former California Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham received an 8-year term for accepting over $1 million in bribes. While Ney's corruption did not involve nearly the same amounts as Cunningham's, the difference is more one of slight degree than any real distinction in kind because each chose to abuse his elected position to enrich himself.
In case you think this puts an end to corruption investigations on Capitol Hill, there is no shortage of current and former officials under scrutiny. Two recently reelected Representatives have been linked to bribery investigations. Louisiana Representative William Jefferson's office was searched in May 2006 by the FBI related to alleged kickbacks from business interests, and California Representative Jerry Lewis is identified as a possible target of a federal investigation arising from one of the men who made payments to Cunningham (see Wall Street Journal story here). And the AP story on the Ney sentencing notes that former superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, who provided the benefits, was also involved in giving gifts to former Senator Conrad Burns and Representative Tom DeLay, among others. Abramoff is cooperating in the federal investigation, so there could be more prosecutions in the near future. (ph)