Since 1995, Rep. Bob Ney, a Republican representing a district that solidly voted for President Bush in 2004, has built a personal constituency and remains popular. Yet his association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff — Ney is widely believed to be “Representative No. 1” named in a federal corruption indictment — will be another test of how well Republican candidates can weather national scandals in their own backyard.
Ney, who has not been indicted, maintains his innocence and the Republican Party is sticking by his side.
The question remains whether he will be indicted before the election. He would still be permitted to run even if indicted, and Democrats would push to keep him on the ballot, but it would make his re-election bid more difficult.
Even without an indictment, his ties to Abramoff could set him back in a state fed up with corruption and ethics scandals at the top levels of a Republican-led state. In Georgia, Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition and head of the Georgia Republican Party, lost his primary bid for lieutenant governor after it was reveled that he accepted millions of dollars from Abramoff’s gambling clients.
Democrats hope Ney will follow the same path. His Democratic challenger Zack Space, a little-known attorney from Dover, is trying his hardest to focus on Ney’s ties to corruption in Washington. As part of his campaign, he drew up a “Zack Space Ethics Pledge” to promise that he, the son of a lawyer named Socrates, would not accept gifts from lobbyists.
For his part, Ney launched a Web site filled with computer games meant to disgrace his opponent.
Funding reports released in mid-July show that Space raised $308,000, nearly three times as much as Ney, and had $240,000 on hand, as reported by the Columbus Dispatch. Ney, in addition to falling behind on fundraising, paid $96,500 in lawyer fees to sort out his involvement in the Abramoff scandal. He raised $123,000 in the first quarter and reported about $420,000 cash on hand, according to his spokeswoman Katie Harbath who also said that none of his campaign funds went toward his legal fees.