WASHINGTON – Undaunted by speculation within his own party that he may have to quit Congress because of a corruption probe, Rep. Bob Ney announced Wednesday he's running for re-election.
"2006 promises to be a vigorous campaign and I am ready for the fight," said Ney, R-Ohio. He planned to hold his first formal campaign event Thursday.
Ney's popularity has hardly dimmed in his expansive rural district, even after he was identified in disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea as the central figure in Abramoff's scheme to bribe members of Congress.
Supporters of Ney have been unfazed by Ohio party chairman Bob Bennett's pronouncement last week that Ney should resign if he's indicted.
Bennett attempted to soften his nationally televised comments Friday by noting Ney hadn't been charged with a crime, but he later reiterated that Ney should leave Congress if the Justice Department files criminal charges against him.
Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who also had ties to Abramoff, stepped down temporarily as majority leader last year when he was indicted on unrelated charges in Texas, then made it permanent after the Abramoff guilty plea. But he has not relinquished his House seat.
Earlier this month, Ney temporarily stepped down as chairman of the House Administration Committee. He acknowledged that his ties to Abramoff were a distraction from his duties, particularly as Republicans push an ethics reform agenda — part of which must be implemented by the Administration Committee.
But Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said no such distraction has affected Ney's work for his district, where he's known for hands-on constituent service and independence from GOP trade and labor policies.
Two Republican members of Congress have moved early to dissociate themselves from Ney. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida gave away $2,500 he had received from Ney and Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana shed $10,000 Ney gave him. Ney's political action committee gave money to both lawmakers shortly before the 2004 elections.