Ney, still collecting federal salary, to appear in court this week

With Republicans still reeling from the former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) scandal, more bad news is on the way for the GOP later this week.

Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who has admitted to corruptly accepting thousands of gifts from lobbyists in exchange for legislative favors, is scheduled to appear before a federal judge on Friday the 13th to formally admit wrongdoing.

And to the dismay of Republicans, he will likely do so as a sitting member of Congress.  

Ney has given up his gavels on the House Administration Committee and the Financial Services Housing and Community Opportunity subcommittee, but has kept his seat.

He will appear before Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle at 10 a.m. at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Shortly after announcing his plea agreement with the Justice Department on Sept. 15, Ney checked himself into an alcohol rehabilitation program.

Ney’s last vote was cast Sept. 12 in support of a monument to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 and 1993.

His congressional website makes no mention of his legal troubles and has not posted a new release since August.

Neither Ney’s lawyer nor his congressional office returned calls for comment.

A spokeswoman for the House Administration Committee confirmed Ney is still on the congressional payroll. Ney makes $165,200 annually, or $452.60 per day.

Ney has ignored calls from colleagues and outside ethics groups to step down from his post, including one from Ohio state Sen. Joy Padgett, who is running to replace him.

On Sept. 18, Padgett said, “Congressman Ney’s admission of guilt to serious charges requires his immediate resignation.”

She added that if he fails to do so, Congress should take action to expel him.

Earlier last month, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) had promised a “quick solution” to Ney’s admissions, as the ethics committee launched an investigation.

Asked whether Ney should resign, Hastert said, “I think you will see a solution to that very, very quickly.”

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) was more guarded, saying, “Until he has his day in court, I don’t think it is up to me to say what he should and shouldn’t do.”

Seeking to deflect criticism about Foley, Hastert has noted that the disgraced ex-legislator is no longer a member of Congress, adding that Republicans moved quickly to address the matter.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) also defended Hastert, saying, “I give Speaker Hastert high marks for strong leadership. He took care of [former Rep.] Tom DeLay [R-Texas], his best friend, when Tom was having ethical problems. The Speaker went to him and asked him to leave. When he appointed [former Rep.] Randy “Duke” Cunningham to the Intelligence Committee, he went to Duke and made sure he wasn’t on the Intelligence Committee after it was disclosed he took $2.3 million. And when Bob Ney was appointed chairman of the House Administration Committee, he was appointed by Speaker Hastert. Speaker Hastert went to him and told him to step down from that committee after the [Jack] Abramoff disclosures. Hastert has the ability to take on these big ethical challenges that our party has faced.”

However, he has apparently fallen short in persuading Ney to step aside.

Hastert’s office did not comment for this article.

Current rules permit Ney to keep his pension should he go to prison, which has outraged tax and ethics watchdog groups.

“This Ney thing has been outrageous for years,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “The ethics committee is never going to look into it.”

Others echo that claim, saying the ethics panel will focus on Foley in the coming weeks.

Sloan added that she believes the ethics committee would use Ney’s plea as an excuse to not aggressively probe his behavior as a member of Congress.

Tim Batkins, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union said, “A government pension is basically a federal entitlement. … Some felons can’t vote and yet members of Congress [in prison] will receive $30,000 to $40,000 a year,” after they are released.

Foley resigned Sept. 29 after inappropriate e-mails and instant messages to House pages surfaced in the media. The ethics committee, the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating the matter.