The sudden news that Rep. Bob Ney (R.-Ohio) would relinquish his chairmanship of the powerful House Administration Committee during the probe into his ties with disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff did not cause too many tears among conservatives. Although Ney had voted a generally conservative line during his nearly twelve years in Congress (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 92%), the Buckeye State lawmaker has cast several key votes in opposition to most conservatives among House GOPers; Ney, for example, has consistently supported increases in the minimum wage and last year, signed a letter with a group of Republican House Members urging President Bush to restore previously suspended Davis-Bacon wage standards for post-Katrina rebuilding operations (The President went along and restored Davis-Bacon).
In ’01, Ney and Democratic Rep. Albert Wynn (Md.) co-sponsored a statist campaign finance measure as an alternative to the more restrictive Shays-Meehan legislation. Ney-Wynn went nowhere and Shays-Meehan was eventually enacted by the House and signed into law by the President.
When I would travel to Ohio in the 1980s and early 1990s and interviewed the then-State Sen. Ney, he frequently recalled his friendship with and admiration for the late Rep. John M. Ashbrook (R.-Oh.), one of the titans of the postwar conservative movement. In interviewing Candidate Ney for HUMAN EVENTS’ "Race of the Week" feature during his first House campaign in 1994, I recalled how he again invoked Ashbrook’s name and inspiration.
But in office, Rep. Ney has clearly performed less like his hero Ashbrook than his notorious predecessor as both congressman from Ohio’s 19th District and chairman of the House Administration Committee, the late Democrat Wayne Hays. Known for his ruthless oversight of the Administration panel(which is in charge of offices, parking, and other services for House Members), Hays was finally finished in 1976 following revelations he had hired a secretary who couldn’t type who reportedly provided him with personal services. Much like the mean-spirited Hays, Ney is known as the "mayor of Capitol Hill" for the high-handed means in which he wields the Administration gavel to win friends and punish enemies (when the White House said he could only take one guest to its Christmas Party in 2002, an incensed Ney cut the number of parking places on Capitol Hill for White House officials).
Ironically, when Hays attempted a bid for the state legislature in 1984 after leaving Congress, he was defeated by a young Republican named Bob Ney.
In his union-strong, blue-collar district, Ney is not adverse to big-spending, government-funded pork-barrel programs. As the Columbus Dispatch reported, "Ney has a record of producing for his constitutents, bringing home money for roads, hospitals, and colleges in his district, which stretches from just east of Columbus oto the Ohio River."
While the embattled congressman steadfastly maintains he will be vindicated in the Abramoff affair and vows to seek re-election, a number of Ohio Republicans are growing increasingly jittery about his chances of keeping the 19th District in their hands this year. With less than three weeks to go before the filing deadline, State Sen. Jay Hoettinger is mentioned as a GOP successor, but insisted to reporters he was running for the state House (under state law, Hoettinger is "termed out" of the Senate). "I have no intention of making myself a primary opponent to Congressman Ney," Hoettinger told the Dispatch, "If Bob Ney decides for whatever reason he is not a candidate for Congress, we would certainly take a look at running for Congress. But the ball is in his court."