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...

Concerning Ney's involvement and support for the remarkably sleazy and suspect SunCruz deal and resultant murder...

Ney paid unusual attention to another Abramoff client, the Florida gambling boat company SunCruz, which was headquartered more than 1,000 miles outside of Ney's congressional district. Abramoff and his business partner were trying to buy the cruise ship fleet from Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, but Boulis was demanding unwelcome additional terms.

In March 2000, Ney used the Congressional Record to assail Boulis.

"On the Ohio River we have gaming interests that run clean operations and provide quality entertainment," Ney wrote. "I don't want to see the actions of one bad apple in Florida, or anywhere else to affect the business aspect of this industry or hurt any innocent casino patron in our country."
...
A few months later, Boulis agreed in principle to sell SunCruz to Abramoff and Kidan for $147.5 million. The deal closed in the fall. But Abramoff and Kidan failed to make good on a $23 million payment owed to Boulis, court records show.

When Boulis was being difficult in the negotiations, Ney again made an official statement, this time heaping praise on Kidan.

"Since my previous statement, I have come to learn that SunCruz Casino now finds itself under new ownership and, more importantly, that its new owner has a renowned reputation for honesty and integrity," Ney said in the Congressional Record on Oct. 26, 2000. "The new owner, Mr. Adam Kidan, is most well known for his successful enterprise, Dial-a-Mattress, but he is also well known as a solid individual and a respected member of his community.

"While Mr. Kidan certainly has his hands full in his efforts to clean up SunCruz's reputation, his track record as a businessman and as a citizen lead me to believe that he will easily transform SunCruz from a questionable enterprise to an upstanding establishment that the gaming community can be proud of."

But Kidan's "track record" included a string of lawsuits, judgments, liens, bankruptcies and failed businesses. His Dial-a-Mattress franchise in the District was in bankruptcy. He had filed personal bankruptcy, and he had surrendered his law license in New York after being accused of fraud. One of his mentors, Anthony Moscatiello, was alleged by law enforcement to be an accountant for New York's Gambino crime family.

Ney later said he did not know about Kidan's background.

Four months after Ney's remarks in the Congressional Record, Boulis was murdered in Fort Lauderdale. Police did not make any arrests in the case until September, when they charged four men in the slaying, including Moscatiello and a business associate of Moscatiello's whom Kidan had paid $250,000 as catering consultants.

Five weeks after the Boulis killing, SunCruz officials, including Kidan, threw a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for Ney at Abramoff's skybox at the MCI Center, according to Abramoff's fundraising log.

Concerning support for a Texas-based Indian tribe's gambling legislation and the donations and trips apparently given in exchange...

In early 2002, Volz left his post as Ney's chief of staff to join Abramoff's lobbying team. Soon after, in March 2002, Ney agreed to sponsor legislation that would benefit the Tigua tribe of El Paso, an Abramoff and Scanlon client. They wanted Ney's help to reopen the Tiguas's casino, which the state of Texas had shut down.

"Just met with Ney!!! We're f'ing gold!!!! He's going to do Tigua," Abramoff told Scanlon in a March 20, 2002, e-mail.

Six days later, Abramoff directed tribal officials to make three contributions totaling $32,000 to Ney's campaign and political action committees. A Ney spokesman recently said that money has been donated to Ohio charities.

On June 7, 2002, Abramoff wrote in an e-mail to Tigua consultant Marc Schwartz that "our friend" had "asked if we could help (as in cover) a Scotland golf trip for him and some staff."

The e-mail does not name "our friend," but Schwartz testified in the Senate last fall that it was Ney.
...
Ney's report to Congress listed as a purpose of the trip: "speech to Scottish Parliamentarians." However, there is no record of Ney's speech in the Scottish Parliament's register of official visits kept by the external liaison office, which is available on the Web. In addition, at the time of Ney's trip, the Scottish Parliament was out for its August recess.

Concerning the contract for cellphone antennas to be installed in the U.S. Capital building...Plans had been in the works since 1999 for American company LGC Wireless to install the system in the U.S. House until Ney entered the picture and an Israeli company was ultimately granted the contract after what appears to have been a phony hearing of proposals and a fixed "election"...

In early 2001, Ney took charge of the House Administration Committee, which was ultimately responsible for the antenna job. Sometime that year, exactly when is unclear, Foxcom donated $50,000 to the Capitol Athletic Foundation, Abramoff's charity.
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Also that same year, a decision was delayed on the antennas, which caught House staff by surprise.

"We were really surprised, given all the work we put in with LGC in designing the system," said Henry F. "Bud" Collins Jr., the senior network systems engineer for the House. "Then, all of a sudden this other company showed up. We had to go through this whole thing again."
...
LGC Chief Operating Officer Alex Gray wrote to Ney to complain about the "highly politicized selection process" that favored the Israeli company despite the House's "Buy American" posture. "Only Foxcom was permitted a full and fair hearing on the merits of its proposal --- essentially a 'back room' deal based on political expediency alone," Gray wrote.

Assistant House Counsel Carolyn Betz, replying on behalf of Ney, said in a letter to LGC that in the fall of 2001 the major wireless companies were receiving ballots to vote on who should get the contract.

In a letter to Betz, LGC president and chief executive Ian Sugarbroad called the election process "deeply flawed and unfair." He said each wireless company was sent a ballot and allowed to vote for LGC, Foxcom or "no preference." There were no details on the bid proposals, such as cost, security features, band capacity or critical performance metrics, Sugarbroad said.

Brian Walsh, Ney's spokesman, provided The Post redacted copies of the ballots. Three show checkmarks in a box next to Foxcom. The other three ballots are marked "no preference."

But representatives of all six companies said they voted no preference, according to interviews and documents. Five of them were interviewed by The Post, and the sixth made its preference known in a letter obtained by The Post.
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Ney awarded the license to Foxcom on Nov. 26, 2002, Walsh said. He declined to make public a copy of documents relating to the agreement, noting that the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to Congress.
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After the contract was awarded, Foxcom listed Abramoff as its lobbyist. Over the next two years, Foxcom paid Abramoff's team $280,000.

(Thanks to BRAD BLOG commenter, "Floridiot" for the link to this story.)