Former Congressman Robert Ney of Ohio last week created headlines, at least within Washington's insider media, by publishing his memoir, Sideswiped. The book recounts his political career, imprisonment for corruption, and efforts to redeem himself through Alcoholics Anonymous and otherwise.
Ney, a Republican, describes a process of political, selective prosecution — sometimes with the media as complicit hitmen at the service of prosecutors seeking publicity over a conviction. He alleges that the Bush Justice Department and White House used him as a scapegoat after the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal erupted in 2006. The reason? To appease reformers, thus sparing others who were better-connected in Washington but more deeply corrupt.
This kind of result-oriented justice is at the core of our Justice Integrity Project's investigative work. We could not research our leads, however, without evidence provided by insiders.
As an appendix, Ney protests the political frame-up of Democratic former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who is now serving a long prison term on trumped-up corruption charges. Ney describes the Justice Department's Siegelman prosecution as proof that the Department can orchestrate injustice without redress — even when irregularities are thoroughly documented in court filings and investigative reports. Ney has never met Siegelman. Like many across the country, however, he is appalled at the evidence.
For such reasons, I found Ney's book engaging and enlightening, albeit worthy of much deeper analysis on my part about his allegations against core players in Washington's power structure.
Therefore, my column today is the first of an extended treatment of Ney's allegations in future columns. Today's is primarily a news account of his book launch and a brief commentary on the book and news coverage so far. My future columns will address his specific allegations more in depth.
Ney took a hard shot at House Speaker John Boehner, a fellow Ohio Republican congressman whom Ney believes double-crossed him and the country. Another newsworthy element of the book is Ney's complex reaction to the recent reform advocacy by Abramoff, the GOP lobbyist whose intrigues toppled Ney.
I had the opportunity to discuss these topics at Ney's book launch party last week at The Monocle, a restaurant almost adjoining the U.S. Senate offices.