Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fourth House Republican steps down under pressure in the 109th Congress

Convicted Republican Ney resigns from House
By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Bob Ney of Ohio resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, three weeks after pleading guilty in the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal.

Ney submitted a letter of resignation, effective immediately, to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican who along with other lawmakers had urged him to step down immediately.

Ney had said in August he would not seek re-election to a seventh two-year term in the November 7 elections.

By staying on for a bit longer, he remained eligible to receive his paycheck and benefits, which drew widespread criticism.

Ney was the first lawmaker convicted in the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, and the fourth House Republican to step down under pressure in the 109th Congress.

Their cases have rocked Republicans as they seek to retain control of the House on Tuesday. Democrats have accused Republicans of "a culture of corruption."

In the race to replace Ney, Democrat Zack Space holds a whopping 58 percent to 33 percent lead over Republican state Sen. Joy Padgett, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

Other corruption-tainted Republicans who left the House were former Republican leader Tom DeLay of Texas, indicted on state campaign finance charges; Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California, convicted of accepting bribes, and Mark Foley of Florida, found to have sent sexually explicit e-mails to former interns.

Ney admitted he illegally accepted trips, meals, drinks, tickets to concerts and sporting events and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars in return for official acts performed on behalf of the lobbyist Abramoff and his clients.

Having abandoned his re-election race as federal authorities examined his links to the convicted Abramoff, Ney said last month he was ashamed of the way his public service career was ending.

In his letter to Hastert, Ney made no mention of his wrongdoing. He wrote: "It has been an honor to serve the people of the 18th congressional district of Ohio for the past 12 years."

"Having completed all outstanding work in my congressional office, I now hereby resign," added Ney, 52.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, blamed the House Republican leadership for letting Ney remain on the congressional payroll weeks after admitting guilt to accepting bribes, calling it "an embarrassment to this institution and an insult to the American taxpayer."