Sun, Oct 15, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Republican admits guilt in influence-peddling probe

AP , WASHINGTON

A US Republican congressman has admitted guilt in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling investigation, becoming the first lawmaker to confess to crimes in an election-year scandal that has stained the Republican controlled Congress and the administration of US President George W. Bush.

Beleaguered party leaders said Representative Bob Ney will be expelled from the House of Representatives if he has not resigned by the time they return to Washington after the Nov. 7 congressional elections.

The Ney case and other criminal and sexual problems that have turned up in recent months have caused serious trouble for the party, with many experts giving the opposition Democrats an excellent chance of ending the Republicans' 12-year rule in at least one and possibly both chambers of Congress.

Appearing on Friday before Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle on charges of conspiracy and making false statements, Ney acknowledged taking trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from Abramoff in return for official actions on behalf of the lobbyist's clients.

Ney could receive a possible sentence of 10 years in prison, but the Justice Department recommended 27 months.

Ney's lawyers plan to recommend him for a Bureau of Prisons alcohol treatment program, which would cut dramatically the time he would serve behind bars.

Although Ney's lawyer and the congressman promised he would resign in the next few weeks, it was not soon enough for House Republican leaders who are on the defensive because of the fresh scandals in the final weeks before the elections.

Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Republican House leaders, along with their top aides, are under investigation by the House Ethics Committee in a possible cover-up of former Representative Mark Foley's sexually charged messages to teenage males who served House lawmakers as assistants or pages.

Hastert has urged Ney to resign, as did the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, who said Ney's criminal activity "is not a reflection of the Republican Party."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner said he would introduce a resolution to kick Ney out of the House when Congress returns to Washington.

The House has full control over its membership.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi faulted Hastert and other Republican leaders for letting Ney remain on the public payroll since he signed papers in last month agreeing to plead guilty.

Pelosi said House GOP leaders "have a long pattern of protecting Republican members."

In Ney's home state, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett called Ney "a cancer in the Congress."

Political corruption has hurt Republicans more than Democrats, recent Associated Press-Ipsos polls indicate.

Democrats have the advantage over Republicans on the question of who would do a better job of handling corruption, with 40 percent of respondents saying that the Democrats would do a better job, while only 25 percent favored Republicans.

Ney is the latest in a string of once-influential men who have been convicted in a scandal that so far has netted several lobbyists and two members of the Bush administration.

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