- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A former congressional aide who became an associate of Jack Abramoff is the latest Washington power broker to be charged in a lobbying scandal that continues to rock Capitol Hill.

Kevin A. Ring, 37, was charged in a 10-count indictment, unsealed Monday, with conspiring with Abramoff and others to give gifts to public officials to either reward or encourage favors. Before going to work for Abramoff, Mr. Ring worked for Rep. John T. Doolittle, California Republican.

Abramoff, the central figure in the scandal, was sentenced last week to four years in prison. As part of his plea agreement, Abramoff agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. So far, his cooperation has led to guilty pleas from 12 other people, including former Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican. In 2006, Abramoff began serving a prison term for a conviction in a separate Florida case.

The scandal helped Democrats win control of Congress in 2006 for the first time in 12 years. They used the slogan “culture of corruption” during the campaign to describe their Republican opponents.

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Ring pleaded not guilty in federal court in the District.

FBI agents arrested Mr. Ring at his home Monday morning. His lawyer attacked the move, saying the FBI ignored requests to allow Mr. Ring to turn himself in should he be indicted.

“While Mr. Ring has been cooperating with officials for over two years, he simply could not plead guilty to crimes he did not commit,” attorney Richard Hibey said. “From that point, he was deemed uncooperative.”

Mr. Ring is accused of buying influence with expensive dinners, tickets and campaign contributions.

One of the offices that prosecutors say Mr. Ring targeted was Mr. Doolittle’s.

According to the indictment, Mr. Ring showered Mr. Doolittle’s staff members with gifts and Abramoff even put the congressman’s wife on the payroll.

Though he is referred to only as “Representative 5” in the indictment, Mr. Doolittle’s lawyers called the references to their client “gratuitous,” which they said were designed to “titillate the public, with the foreseeable and therefore intended consequence of attempting to embarrass and pressure the congressman.”

Mr. Doolittle, who has not been charged, is not running for re-election.

“Not once in this document does the Department of Justice allege any sort of illegal agreement between Congressman Doolittle, on the one hand, and Kevin Ring or Jack Abramoff, on the other,” said attorneys David Barger and Michael Sklaire. “To the extent the indictment can be read to imply such an agreement, the congressman continues to steadfastly maintain there was none and that he is innocent.”

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