- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

Rep. Bob Ney said yesterday that he is temporarily giving up his chairmanship of the House Administration Committee while he fights bribery accusations against him.

“The false allegations made against me have become a distraction to the important work of the House Republican Conference and the important work that remains ahead for the House Administration Committee,” Mr. Ney said.

Mr. Ney is one of several lawmakers at the center of the Justice Department investigation of Capitol Hill lobbying corruption that has netted guilty pleas from Jack Abramoff.

The Administration Committee would have jurisdiction over any lobby reform proposal in the House, and Republicans said it would be a problem to have Mr. Ney oversee those efforts with the corruption accusations hanging over him.

Mr. Ney said he expects to regain his chairmanship after he clears his name.

“Congressman Ney continues to believe he will be vindicated and he hasn’t done anything wrong,” spokesman Brian Walsh said, adding that Mr. Ney will keep his chairmanship of a Financial Services subcommittee.

The issue of lobbying reform also took center stage yesterday in the three-way race among House Republicans for majority leader.

Rep. John Shadegg, the outsider from Arizona, said he is the only challenger who can make “a clean break” with the corruption accusations against Republicans in Congress.

“We need a new image, and we need to clean up these kind of issues so that the American people can look back at our substantive agenda,” Mr. Shadegg said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mr. Shadegg, Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio and Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the three Republicans running to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay as majority leader, appeared on the program to make their cases.

Mr. Blunt on Saturday claimed enough support to have the contest locked up, but Mr. Boehner said the race continues and he won’t drop out.

“What we’ve seen over the last week is what I would describe as a poll. Each of us polling our colleagues,” Mr. Boehner said. “What really matters is, when our colleagues actually vote and have a secret ballot. We’ll see where the votes really are.”

The Ohio lawmaker said he has the longest record of fighting for reform and pointed out that he helped clean up Congress after the House post office and bank scandals in the early 1990s.

Some critics have said Mr. Blunt did not perform well as acting majority leader at the end of last year, but Mr. Blunt said he was happy with what congressional Republicans accomplished: passing individually all 12 appropriations bills, as well as an across-the-board spending cut and a bill to slow entitlement spending increases.

He also said it was a good idea to put off another vote on a tax-cut package because, when Congress comes back, “we’ll have nine Democrats and we’ll have virtually all of the Republicans and we’re going to go to conference a lot stronger otherwise.”

Mr. Shadegg, though, said Republicans must change leadership to get back to the principles that carried them to victory in 1994: shrinking the size of government and cleaning up the “backroom deals in Washington.”

“I don’t think we have gone far enough to deliver on either of those, and I think the American people are questioning, ‘Did we change Washington or did Washington change us?’”

Mr. Shadegg also called on Congress to act on a bill that would prevent former members found guilty of being bribed from collecting congressional pensions.

Last year, Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, California Republican, pleaded guilty and resigned his seat in Congress, but under current rules will collect his pension.

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