WASHINGTON – A House committee chairman who has been connected to lobbyists accused of bilking Indian tribes (search) out of millions of dollars said Wednesday that he has been asked to meet with members of the House ethics committee.
Rep. Bob Ney (search), R-Ohio, told The Associated Press that the ethics panel has not notified him of an official investigation or asked him to turn over any documents.
"I had a conversation with them and told them that I'd schedule a time to talk," Ney said. "Anything they'd like to see, they are more than welcome to have it."
Ney, who chairs the House Administration Committee, said he spoke with a member of Rep. Joel Hefley's staff. Hefley, R-Colo., chairs the ethics panel, formally known as the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
Ethics committee counsel Paul Lewis said he couldn't confirm or deny the panel's interest in Ney.
Ney's name surfaced last month during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing about the dealings of Washington lobbyists Jack Abramoff (search) and Michael Scanlon (search) and several Indian tribes.
Carlos Hisa, the lieutenant governor of the Tigua tribe, said in testimony Nov. 17 that the lobbyists told tribe officials that Ney and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., had agreed to insert a provision in an election reform bill to help them reopen a casino in Texas.
Ney said in a release issued after the hearing that he backed the Indian measure only after being assured by Abramoff that Dodd supported it. Dodd said neither Abramoff nor Scanlon ever contacted him on recognition of the Tiguas.
"I, like these Indian tribes and other members of Congress, was duped by Jack Abramoff," Ney said. The measure the tribes had sought was not included in the bill, which passed in 2002.
Ney received campaign donations from Abramoff and Scanlon and took a trip to Scotland with Abramoff that was paid for by the National Center for Public Policy Research, according to travel and Federal Elections Commission documents.
Ney told the AP on Wednesday that the connection has been overplayed.
"You do something that is in good faith - how did I know what they were charging their clients? Why would I hurt anyone, especially an Indian tribe?" said Ney, who was visiting Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey this week as part of an official trip.