Lobbygate, the scandal swirling around corrupt former Preston Gates Ellis lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has claimed its first member of Congress. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, today agreed to plead guilty to making false statements, violating federal lobbying laws, and conspiring to commit fraud. He could serve more than two years in prison. In a statement, Ney said he made "serious mistakes" and was "sorry for the pain." He meant the emotional pain, but suggested it was morning-after pain that played a role in his crime. A "dependence on alcohol has been a problem for me," he said in a statement. "I am not making any excuses, and I take full responsibility for my actions. Over the years, I have worked to help others, but now I am the one that needs help."
The Associated Press reports that Ney acknowledges accepting all-expenses-paid and reduced-price trips to play golf in Scotland in August 2002, to gamble and vacation in New Orleans in May 2003 and to vacation in New York in August 2003. Cost of the trips exceeded $170,000, according to federal prosecutors. He also confessed to accepting meals and tickets to sports events and concerts in exchange for legislation—on three occasions in 2002—to benefit Abramoff's lobbying clients. Another client was also able to win a multimillion-dollar government contract.
Ney's plea brings to seven the number of major figures convicted in Lobbygate, including a plea in January by Abramoff, an alumnus of Seattle-based Preston Gates Ellis law and lobbying firm, where the Lobbygate law-breaking began. Two other former Preston Gates lobbyists, Michael Scanlon and David Safavian—the latter who went on to work for the White House—were convicted along with Ney aide Neil Volz. Also pleading were two ex–congressional aides to former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay—who has been in the eye of the scandal but not charged (he does face money laundering charges in Texas). Though Ney was speaking about his alcohol addiction, he could have been talking today about the hook of political corruption—the monkey on the back of many in power—when he said "I am seeking professional help for this problem. I am hopeful that with counseling, time, and the support of my family and friends, I will be able to deal with my dependency."