Another scandal-ridden Congressman falls

Rep. Bob Ney, another Republican caught in the widening web of corruption in Congress, said Sunday he will step aside temporarily as chairman
of the House Administration Committee.

He joins former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay who quit his leadership post amid indictments and implications in other scandals, and former California Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who resigned from Congress after copping a guilty plea to accepting brides.

Those close to the rapidly expanding scandals say there will be others who will fall.

“Unfortunately it has
become clear to me in recent days that the false allegations made
against me have become a distraction to the important work of the House
Republican Conference and the important work that remains ahead for the
House Administration Committee,” Ney said in a written statement.

was a reference to a scramble by Republicans in the House and Senate to
come up with a new set of rules governing lobbying and travel as a way
to inoculate themselves politically from the scandal unfolding around
the guilty plea of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Democrats are offering their own plan this week.

is at the center of the Justice Department’s ongoing corruption probe
and has been identified as the congressman referenced by Abramoff in
his guilty plea earlier this month.

Ney’s decision comes as three
House Republicans are waging a spirited campaign to replace Rep. Tom
DeLay of Texas as majority leader. DeLay was forced by party rules to
step aside after he was indicted by a state grand jury in Texas for
alleged violation of campaign finance laws.

DeLay also is a longtime friend of Abramoff and some of DeLay’s former aides have been charged in the Abramoff investigation.

Administration Committee that Ney headed controls disclosures of
lobbying practices and would be a key part of efforts to reform the

A GOP leadership aide said Friday that House Speaker
Dennis Hastert was pressuring Ney to step aside because he believes it
would be inappropriate for him to head the committee with jurisdiction
over the Republican reform agenda.

Ney’s statement Sunday said he had notified Hastert earlier in the day of his decision.

want to assure my colleagues and my constituents that I have done
absolutely nothing wrong, and I am convinced that I will be vindicated
completely at the end of this difficult process,” Ney said.

Ney will maintain his chairmanship of a housing subcommittee, said his spokesman, Brian Walsh.

GOP leadership aide who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because
of the sensitivity of private talks between Ney and Hastert, said the
speaker himself could not have fired Ney. Unless Ney agreed to step
aside it would be at least three weeks until the GOP caucus could
consider removing him, the aide said.

Court papers released as
part of Abramoff’s plea to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and income
tax evasion detailed lavish gifts and contributions that Abramoff says
he gave an unnamed House member, identified elsewhere as Ney.

other accusations, Abramoff said the congressman took favors including
a 2002 golf trip to Scotland, free dinners and events and campaign
donations in exchange for his support of Abramoff’s American Indian
tribe clients in Texas and the lobbyist’s purchase of a fleet of
Florida casino boats.

Other accusations include that Ney
supported legislation to help a California Indian tribe with taxes and
a post office and, as chairman of the Administration Committee,
approved a lucrative deal for an Abramoff client to improve cell phone
reception in House buildings.

Ney’s decision comes as House and
Senate Republicans scramble to devise a plan that would go well beyond
current rules governing travel, gifts and lobbying by former members of
Congress and their aides, as part of an effort to curtail the influence
of lobbyists on lawmakers.

Ney has already instructed the House
Clerk to devise a more open computerized system for members to report
privately paid travel, but it was not clear what will become of that

Ney was elected to Congress from a rural district in
1994. He won a sixth term in 2004 with 66 percent of the vote, was
unopposed in 2002 and hasn’t drawn less than 60 percent in any election
since 1996.