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Ney Omitted ’03 Tribal Donation

House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) failed to declare that an American Indian tribe hosted a February 2003 fundraising event for his re-election campaign, a potential violation of federal election law. Ney’s campaign scrambled to correct the omission this week.

Ney held a fundraiser on Feb. 4, 2003, in a luxury suite at the MCI Center leased to the Morongo Band of Mission Indians of Banning, Calif. Ney’s re-election committee never reimbursed the tribe for the cost of hosting the event, as is required by law.

In response to inquiries by Roll Call, Ney’s re-election campaign on Tuesday filed an amendment to its fundraising reports for the first quarter of 2003.

“This is nothing more than an honest mistake,” said Brian Walsh, Ney’s spokesman. “It has just been discovered.”

Walsh added that the Ney campaign had already paid for catered food for the event, although Ney’s campaign neglected to reimburse the tribe for rent for the suite, worth approximately $1,500.

Walsh said he was not able to determine how much Ney had raised at the event. The Washington Wizards played the Cleveland Cavaliers at the MCI Center that night.

Ney has already attracted scrutiny for his relationship with former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and American Indian tribes.

While working at the firm Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff approached Ney in early 2002 about inserting a provision in an election-reform bill making its way through Congress. At that time, Abramoff was secretly working for the Tigua tribe of El Paso, Texas, and never formally registered to represent the tribe.

According to testimony given last year to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Abramoff wanted Ney to include a provision in the Help America Vote Act that would allow the Tiguas to reopen a casino shut down by Texas authorities. Ney agreed, although the provision was dropped from the final legislation after Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) objected. Ney said he was duped by Abramoff.

Abramoff, along with Republican political consultant Michael Scanlon, was paid more than $4 million by the Tiguas for his efforts. Abramoff, in turn, helped steer more than $30,000 in campaign contributions to Ney. Abramoff also hired a top former Ney aide to work for him at Greenberg Traurig.

The House ethics committee began an informal inquiry into Ney’s dealings with Abramoff last year, although all work on that probe has been brought to a halt as Democrats and Republicans fight over ethics rules for the 109th Congress.

The Morongos, a California tribe whose reservation is not far from Palm Springs, operate a casino, resort and spa. The tribe donated slightly more than $5,900 to Ney’s leadership PAC, American Liberty PAC, in 2004. Scott Dacey, a longtime lobbyist for the tribe, gave $500 to the PAC in late October 2004. Dacey attended the February 2003 MCI Center fundraiser.

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