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The Dots Connect Between Abramoff, Ohio 2004 Election Smokescreen and Ney's Former Staffer Revealed to be on Diebold's Payroll While Working for White House Law Firm
All the While as HAVA --- America's 'Election Reform' Bill --- is Used for Political Payoff in the Bargain...
By Brad Friedman on 1/10/2006 11:21am PT  

There's been a great deal of speculation over the last several days, particularly in the light of Jack Abramoff's recent guilty pleas, concerning the connection of Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) to Election Fraud in Ohio, vis a vis his stewardship and authoring of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) back in 2001 and 2002. The heavy-handed tactics he has taken since, in order to keep the flawed act from being changed in any way over the years, along with going to great lengths to keep the nation's eyes off of massive electile dysfunction in Ohio and elsewhere since 2004, may finally get the attention it all properly deserves.

Both Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon have directly informed prosecutors of Ney's alleged wrong-doing in regard to money and gifts given to Ney, in apparent exchange for support on various legislation and even personal business deals. Ney, who chairs the important U.S. House Administration Committee, has been fingered, and now subpoenaed, for accepting illegal trips, gratuities and other apparent quid pro quo deals with Abramoff's former firms, partners, friends and groups who had paid both him and Scanlon as lobbyists.

His direct connection to the HAVA Election Reform bill passed in the wake of the 2000 Florida Election Debacle, and his various extraordinary efforts to specifically block amendments to the bill and to smokescreen attempted investigations into his home state's conduct during the 2004 Election Debacle, has been less widely reported. Until now.

While Common Cause quietly reported in December of 2004 that Diebold --- the much-beleagured-of-late American Voting Machine company --- paid as much as $275,000 to Abramoff's firm, Greenberg Traurig for lobbying work, The BRAD BLOG has now found additional details that begin to shed new light on Ney's personal connections to Diebold lobbyists.

Such personal connections include those with Ney's former chief of staff turned lobbyist, David DiStefano, who has been working on behalf of Diebold, Inc. and at least one other Voting Machine Company as a registered lobbyist in the House going back to at least 2001. One of DiStefano's online bios crows about his having "an insider's edge to hard-to-reach political officials." That "insider's edge" has proven to have been a very worthwhile investment for the Voting Machine Companies who'd purchased access into Ney's political office.

Congressional lobbying records reveal that Diebold, Inc. has paid at least $180,000 to DiStefano and eventually his partner, Roy C. Coffee, to lobby for the "Help America Vote Act" and other "Election Reform Issues" in Congress since 2003. Another Electronic Voting Machine Company, AccuPoll, Inc., also paid DiStefano some $70,000 to lobby for HAVA on their behalf in 2002, although that relationship was apparently terminated once the legislation was passed by Congress.

In turn, Ney's former employee DiStefano and Coffee themselves have given nearly $20,000 to Bob Ney's campaigns dating back to 2002.

The connections of DiStefano and Coffee don't stop at Congress, however. Both lobbyists now work out of the new Washington office of the Texas-based law firm of Lock, Liddell & Sapp LLP --- the firm of George W. Bush's White House Counsel Harriet Miers. And Coffee, himself, had previously worked as a senior aide to then-Governor Bush back in Texas.

In addition to lobbying in favor of Electronic Voting, DiStefano and Coffee were also paid thousands to lobby Ney on behalf of an obscure firm by the name of FN Aviation, which later became known as FAZ Aviation. FN/FAZ Aviation, the Columbus Dispatch reported last December, paid for Ney's 2003 trip to England. On that trip, Ney met at a casino with FN Aviation's director, Nigel Winfield, a three-time convicted felon, and Fouad al-Zayat, the Syrian-born head of FN Aviation. Zayat, as reported by NBC News, is known as "one of London's biggest gamblers."

As has also been reported by NBC and others, the apparently once-very lucky Ney reported winning some $34,000 a few months later at that same London casino, after an initial $100 bet "on two hands of a three-card game of chance," according to his spokesperson Brian Walsh. Ney, who coincidentally carried at least $30,000 in credit card debt in 2002, was fortunate to be able to report that the debt was paid off in full by the end of 2003.

The dots begin converging, however, in regard to both large campaign contributions and lobbying done by Ney's former chief of staff, DiStefano along with Coffee on behalf of both FN/FAZ Aviation and Diebold, Inc.

Ney was one of the original authors and lead co-sponsors of HAVA, and a fierce defender of both the act and the effort to keep further legislation from moving forward in Congress that would mandate Voter Verified Paper Ballots for electronic voting machines made by Diebold and other e-voting vendors.

In 2004, prior to the Presidential Election, Ney went so far as to send a "Dear Colleague" letter signed along with the other HAVA co-sponsors, to members of congress urging them not to amend the original legislation. He argued at the time that paper records on such machines would somehow disenfranchise disabled voters, who had been cleverly afforded a special provision in the bill which mandated at least one disabled-accessable device in every voting precinct in the country. That device, of course, would be a paperless touch-screen electronic voting machine, like the ones made by Diebold, which, legislators, vendors and lobbyists would later proffer, were required to meet provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Ney had also personally gone out of his way to keep Rep. Rush Holt's (D-NJ) "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act" (HR 550), which would mandate paper records for all votes cast, from ever seeing the light of day in the House Administration Committee. That, despite Holt's bill having now nearly 160 bi-partisan co-sponsors. Ney has succeeded brilliantly at squashing Holt's bill, first proposed as HR 2239 back in 2003, as it continues to both gain co-sponsors and gather dust as the powerful Republican committee chair still refuses to allow it even to be brought up for hearings.

The American Prospect's Art Levine broke a superb exposé last May concerning Ney's alleged payoffs from a number of the Indian tribes that now-disgraced, once-uber-lobbyist Abramoff was representing in exchange for promises to support their hope for new gambling legislation back in 2002.

"Just met with Ney!!! We're f'ing gold!!!! He's going to do Tigua," wrote Abramoff to Scanlon in an Email, after Ney reportedly promised to add the Tribe's hoped-for legislation to HAVA while the bill was still pending.

Ney then told the tribes --- who had been instructed by Abramoff and Scanlon to give tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign and to pay for a $100,000 trip to play golf at St. Andrews in Scotland --- that he was working with the Democratic Senator from Connecticut, Chris Dodd, to add gambling language in HAVA that would be favorable to the tribes.

In reality, Dodd had rejected the idea early on in no uncertain terms, as Levine reports, but that didn't keep Ney from spinning tales to the tribal groups. He told them on several occassions, at least once personally, that things were moving smartly forward as he kept accepting more cash and gifts from them along the way.

Finally, when the HAVA legislation was passed, and the promised language was nowhere to be found, Ney informed the tribes that Dodd had reneged on the deal at the last minute.

That was, of course, not true, since Dodd had rejected the plan months earlier.

But as the spotlight of corruption has finally begun to shine bright and clear in the Mainstream Media onto Ney, renewed interest in his support and authorship of HAVA itself --- along with the connections between that legislation, chicanery in Ohio's Election, Abramoff and several other GOP operative and lobbying firms' merry band of pay-for-players --- are helping to bubble up towards the surface a few previously overlooked, but very important, details that may finally now receive the attention they always deserved from the Mainstream Media...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 11/23/2005 4:00pm PT  

The congressman man who ran sham hearings in House Administration Committee on last year's Ohio Election mess (the ones that exposed the insidious ACVR hucksters), was recently subpeonead by the DoJ where he is said to be under investigation on four different aspects of an ongoing probe, looks to be in big big trouble in the wake of the Michael Scanlon indictment.

Jesse of Stakeholder has a round-up of today's headlines on the apparently-soon-to-be-indicted U.S. Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH). Here's what Jesse's found just today at a quick glance:

"Plea Deal Ties Ney to Second Tribe" [Roll Call]

"Rep. Bob Ney is poster boy in bribe probe" [AP]

"Ney's Troubles Are Mounting" [Roll Call]

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Little-Known, but Powerful U.S. Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) up to Eyeballs in DeLay, Abramoff, Corruption Probe
Tied to Gambling, Illegal Favors and TeleCom 'Election' Fixing Investigations...
By Brad Friedman on 10/18/2005 12:57pm PT  

In an extremely detailed 2891-word page one Washington Post report today by James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt, Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) is tied to at least four different aspects of ongoing probes being carried out by criminal investigators looking into the corruption of GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay --- both of whom have been indicted recently on charges relating to the various investigations.

Ney has not yet been indicted, but the WaPo exposé ties him to several different scandals including the SunCruz casino boat fraud/murder investigation (for which Abramoff has recently been indicted), several illegally funded overseas vacations, support of Indian gaming in apparent trade for favors received in the form of cash contributions and other gifts from Abramoff and --- yes --- the apparent "fixing" of an election administered by Ney of telecommunications companies to determine who would receive a large contract at the U.S. Capital building.

Ney is chairman of the powerful U.S. House Administration Committee. BRAD BLOG readers will remember Ney's committee as holding a "show hearing" earlier this year on "Election Irregularities in Ohio" during the 2004 Presidential Election. That hearing, which attempted to whitewash the thousands of troubling reports calling the Ohio election into question, called just one witness from a "voting rights" group. That witness turned out to be Mark F. "Thor" Hearne of the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR), self-described "non-partisan" organization which had appeared out of the blue just days prior to the hearing. Hearne, identified himself in the hearings as a "long time voting rights advocate", but failed to mention that he was actually the National General Counsel for Bush/Cheney '04 Inc. The other "non-partisan" founder of ACVR was Jim Dyke, former RNC Communcations Director, and recently installed White House spokesman for Dick Cheney.

(BRAD BLOG's full special coverage of ACVR, the so-called "non-partisan" GOP front group masquerading as a "voting rights" organization, can be found here.)

The WaPo story reports that Ney is currently "under investigation by Florida federal prosecutors looking into Abramoff's acquisition of SunCruz, according to sources familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity."

Excerpts from the full WaPo report follow...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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The DNC Finally Fights Back at the Republican-run 'American Center for Voting Rights' Hoax!
PLUS: Proof that Republicans only pretend to hate Marxists and More on ACVR's Fake 'Democrat', Brian Lunde!
By Joseph Cannon on 8/15/2005 11:19pm PT  

Guest blogged by Joseph Cannon

The Democratic National Committee has responded to the false charges posted by the allegedly non-partisan American Center for Voting Rights.

As most of you should know by now, the ACVR is crawling with Republican operatives, many of whom have strong links to indicted sleazoid Jack Abramoff.

AVCR chairman Brian Lunde has a particularly troubling history...

According to Senate lobbying registrations, in 2001 Lunde registered to lobby for George Birnbaum, an associate of Republican consultant and mudthrower Arthur Finkelstein. According to his disclosure filed with the Secretary of the Senate, Lunde worked to "set up meetings for President Kabila of Congo."

According to the CIA factbook on the Congo, at the time, President Joseph Kabila had just assumed power from his father, Laurent Kabila. The older Kabila was a committed Marxist who had ruled Congo since he took forcefully took power in 1997 in a rebellion backed by Uganda and Rwanda. As President, Laurent Kabila banned all political parties except his and failed to hold long-promised elections. He also blocked an investigation into the massacre of tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees that occurred during his takeover. Today, Joseph Kabila still rules as a dictator and no elections have been held in Congo since 1984.

In addition, by claiming he worked for Birnbaum and not Kabila directly, Lunde skirted disclosure laws that would have required him to register as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice.

A lobbyist for a democracy-phobic dictator dares to give the rest of the world a lecture on voting rights? Outrageous!

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Ohio Republican Who Ought to Recognize Phony 'Front Groups' Claims to have Been Duped by Phony 'Front Group'
Blames Abramoff, Indian Tribes and Democrat Christopher Dodd. Another Republican in favor of personal responsibility we guess.
By Brad Friedman on 5/10/2005 9:37am PT  

An excellent article just out from June's The American Prospect suggests that Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH), one of the sponsors of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is now under Dept. of Justice investigation for his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the money received from the Tigua Indian tribe to finance a golf trip, like Tom Delays, to Scotland.

Our good friend, Tom Feeney, by the way, was also on one of those Scotland Golf Trips. Just thought it worth mentioning.

The Prospect article outlines in detail in how Ney had used Christopher Dodd (D-CT), without Dodd's knowledge, to suggest that the two of them would be able to add a rider to HAVA which would be favorable to the Tigua Indian tribe. Of course, Dodd never seems to have been a party to any of this.

Ney, who chairs the House Administration Committee, recently held hearings on the Ohio Election 2004 mess during which --- as originally reported by BRAD BLOG --- he invited friends from the phony GOP front group calling themselves the American Center for Voting Rights to testify, and yet the Prospect article reports that he claims to have been fooled by an Abramoff front group in relation to the trips he was purchased:

Ney first tested his "innocent victim" line after the Senate hearings on the Tigua fraud. Attacking Abramoff and Scanlon as "nefarious individuals," he proclaimed, "I, like these Indian tribes and other members of Congress, was duped by Jack Abramoff." He explained that the lobbyist had invited him "to go on a trip to Scotland, which Mr. Abramoff said would help support a charitable organization, that he founded, through meetings with Scottish Parliament officials."

That charitable outfit was the Capital Athletic Foundation, an Abramoff front. Why Ney would have to go golfing in Scotland or visit the Parliament there to assist an American-based charity remains an unsolved mystery --- as does his interest in sponsoring legislation for a Texas tribe far from his rural Ohio district.

But Abramoff and his associates had raised money for Ney from 2000 through 2003, providing the use of a luxury skybox at Washington's MCI Center to host a fund-raising event. The helpful congressman had also supported Abramoff and Adam Kidan, the lobbyist's business partner, in their effort to buy a Florida gambling cruise line. The sale went through, but the cruise line's original owner was killed gangland-style after fighting with Kidan, who has alleged ties to organized crime. Ney has since claimed that he was misled about Kidan's background, too.

That "Florida gambling cruise line" which led to an apparent "gangland-style" hit was Suncruz, as reported in excrutiating detail in a Washington Post piece last week.

As is the norm these days, Ney is attempting to deny knowing who actually paid for the trip, yet the Prospect reports:

In June, Abramoff wrote to Schwartz again: "Our friend [Ney] asked if we could ? cover a Scotland golf trip for him and some staff ? and members in August," just like the trip DeLay had taken two years earlier.

And finally --- even after Ney knew full well that Dodd wanted nothing to do with the Indian Tribe legislation --- he invited members of the tribe to the Capitol for a meeting to thank them for the trip, and to act as if he was still hoping to pass their dead-in-the-water legislation:

Ney went on and on for well over an hour, schmoozing with his guests and praising free enterprise. At the end, he even walked them out so they could use the reserved members' elevator. "That last act sealed the deal," recalls Schwartz. "He was very friendly and won us over." Today, Schwartz says, "To raise the hopes of a tribal people when he knew the deal was dead leaves me no doubt that he is a heartless individual devoid of integrity."

The hopes of the Tigua evaporated in October 2002, when Abramoff called to say that Dodd had purportedly decided to renege on his support of the tribe's legislation, supposedly out of anger that his own bill to reform Connecticut tribal recognition was defeated in the Senate.

The Dodd bill provided a perfect cover story --- and in his best David Mamet tough-guy style, Abramoff called Schwartz on his cell phone to complain. "Dodd fucked us!" he said. "Ney is fuming that the bastard went back on his word. We were fucked by a Democrat!"

Using Dodd as a scapegoat for the legislation would was never to have been placed in HAVA, Ney then claims to have been willing to "let election reform die" in retaliation:

Dodd's supposed support was always a phony pipe dream that Ney and Abramoff sold to the Indians. At the Senate hearing last year on the Tigua mess, Dodd released a statement explaining that he hadn't even learned about the Tigua proposal until very late in the process. "Congressman Ney's staff," said the senator, "did approach my office during the waning hours of negotiations over the HAVA legislation to inquire whether recognition provisions for the Tigua tribe could be included in the bill. The suggestion was summarily rejected."

Nevertheless, a few days after the crushing October defeat for the tribe, Abramoff arranged for Ney to speak to the tribal council by conference call to offer his condolences for the legislative failure. Schwartz says that Ney told the council about a supposed conversation with Dodd. "I begged him to put it back in," said Ney. "I'm apologizing for us in Congress, but he went back on his word. I was so disappointed. ? I almost decided to let election reform die."

How filthy can these guys get? Stay tuned...

(Hat tip Jesse over at Stakeholder for the link tip!)

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