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Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) collected $40,000 for his legal defense fund in the first three months of the year, most of it coming from one Columbus family and its business interests.
Facing a difficult re-election in the fall — he was expected to easily win his party’s nomination Tuesday evening — Ney first began raising money for his legal defense fund in January, providing him with another revenue stream to fight allegations of corruption in an ongoing Justice Department probe.
Prior to opening the fund, Ney relied on his campaign committee to foot his legal bills, paying the law firm Vinson and Elkins a total of $232,000 in 2005 and 2006.
Vinson and Elkins has been handling Ney’s interactions with federal investigators regarding their probe of ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s dealings on Capitol Hill and with the Bush administration. The payments to the firm are by far the largest expenditures made by Ney’s campaign this election cycle.
If Ney can successfully raise large sums for his defense fund, it will allow him to husband more of his campaign cash for a general election contest that is widely expected to be a tough battle.
At press time Tuesday evening, it was unclear whether Chillicothe Mayor Joe Sulzer or Dover Law Director Zack Space had secured the Democratic nomination to challenge Ney in November.
So far, according to Ney aides, he has not put much effort into raising cash for the legal defense fund.
No fellow member of the House Republican Conference has donated to the Ney fund — in stark contrast to the $100,000 that the defense fund of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) collected in the first quarter from 20 GOP Members’ political action committees and campaign accounts. DeLay has said he will resign from Congress.
Instead, Ney relied on a handful of his largest political donors to plant the legal seed money in his defense fund. Three members of the Boich family, which runs the Boich Group in Columbus and Next Generation Ventures in Miami Beach, gave a total of $15,000, according to records released Tuesday by the House ethics committee. In addition, those two companies gave $5,000 apiece, bringing the total from the familial source to $25,000.
Separately, the Boich family has contributed almost $9,000 to Ney’s re-election campaign committee, according to a donor search on PoliticalMoneyLine.com.
Last Thursday, a statute of limitations deadline passed without any indictments on one portion of the Abramoff case to which Ney is connected. But federal prosecutors are still examining other roles Ney played in relation to Abramoff, including his 2002 efforts to help an Abramoff tribal casino client at a time when that tribe raised money for a trip to Scotland for the lobbyist, Ney and others.
In recent weeks, there has been some speculation that Ney might choose to quit the race after winning the primary, which would allow Republican officials to choose his replacement.
But Ney, who has denied any wrongdoing, has vowed to stand for re-election.