WASHINGTON – House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney (search) has spent nearly $136,000 from his campaign fund on legal expenses over the past six months in connection with what his lawyer calls "unfounded allegations" of favoritism involving indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Ney's re-election campaign paid the law firm of Vinson & Elkins $135,881 on Aug. 2, more than half of the $250,770 the campaign spent between July 1 and Sept. 30, according to documents the campaign filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.
Ney hired the firm six months ago when reports began surfacing about his ties to Abramoff, who also is a key figure in an investigation involving Tom DeLay (search), R-Texas.
DeLay has temporarily stepped down as House majority leader after being indicted last month by a Texas grand jury. He was charged with money-laundering and conspiracy in connection with the raising of campaign funds for 2002 state legislative races in Texas.
"There are a lot of unfounded allegations that have been raised," said Ney's lawyer, Mark Tuohey. The attorney also said Ney has received no indication from federal authorities that he is under investigation.
A federal grand jury in Miami indicted Abramoff in August on charges of fraud in a 2000 effort to buy casino boats.
Ney took an Abramoff-sponsored golf trip to Scotland in 2002. And Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigators, meanwhile, found an e-mail from Abramoff claiming Ney's support for helping a Texas Indian tribe reopen a closed casino. In 2000, Ney entered comments in the Congressional Record in 2000 criticizing the owner of the casino boats Abramoff wanted to purchase. In all three cases, Ney said, Abramoff had misled him.
The Ohio Democratic Party on Wednesday said Ney should step down as the chairman of the House Administration Committee.
"In Ohio and Washington, D.C., this culture keeps mounting, the people's business doesn't get done and it becomes more about Ney raising money to get himself out of trouble," said state Democratic Party spokesman Brian Rothenberg.
Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said the congressman remains focused on his work.
"He secured $52 million for his district in the highway bill, he's getting things done for the steel industry and coal industry in Ohio; that's all tied to his clout within the House," Walsh said. "He won't step down and hurt his rural district because of a coordinated political strategy by" national Democrats.