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Senators on Wednesday homed in on connections between prominent Republican House member Robert Ney of Ohio and two figures at the center of a lobbying scandal involving Native American clients. Rep. Ney, the chairman of the House Administration Committee, traveled to Scotland in August 2002 on a trip paid for by Native American tribes that were clients of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and public relations executive Michael Scanlon. Also on the trip was Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition head who now runs his own political consulting firm, according to Senate testimony and documents released by the Senate on Wednesday. Scanlon and Abramoff, a longtime Republican power lobbyist, are under investigation by the Senate and federal law enforcement agencies for allegedly hoodwinking Indian clients out of tens of millions of dollars in fees and manipulating tribal elections for personal financial gain. Ney’s Ohio district is home to very few Native Americans, but his committee was a key player in 2002 in efforts to pass an election reform bill that included a provision that would benefit a tribal client of Abramoff and Scanlon’s. The Tigua tribe was trying to reopen an Indian casino near El Paso, Texas. Abramoff, Scanlon, and Reed had previously worked to help close down the casino. Abramoff and Scanlon then solicited the tribe as a client to help them reopen it. During the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on Wednesday, senators asked representatives of the Tigua tribe about the funding for Ney’s trip to Scotland and an August 2002 meeting Tigua officials and Abramoff had with Ney. The hearing was the first time senators had revealed that their investigation has led them to other lawmakers. In a statement, Ney said he was “disgusted and appalled” by Abramoff and Scanlon’s activities. He said he was unaware that Indian tribes funded his trip to Scotland. “I had no idea of their involvement,” Ney said in the statement. Questions were also raised about Sen. Christopher Dodd’s role in the legislation involving the Tiguas. Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, in 2002 chaired the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. According to the Tiguas, Abramoff and Scanlon told the tribe that Dodd had agreed to support their measure. “They never contacted me on recognition of the Tigua tribe, and I never represented to them—either to them or Congressman Ney—that I would in any manner work to legislatively recognize the Tigua tribe,” Dodd said in a statement read at the hearing. Ney, in his statement, seemed to support Dodd’s assertion that senator knew nothing about the Tigua provision. “I . . . personally asked Senator Dodd of this provision and he expressed no knowledge of it. In short, I had been misled by Jack Abramoff,” Ney said in his statement. Senators also, for the first time, had a face-to-face encounter with Scanlon, who refused to answer questions and invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. The Washington, D.C., native, who once served as spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), simply nodded as senators reprimanded him. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), a Native American and chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, recounted the abuse suffered by Native Americans throughout U.S. history and the problems that tribes currently face. He pointed angrily at Scanlon and said, “You’re the problem, buddy.” Documents released by the committee and remarks by the senators also revealed an odd payment arrangement between Abramoff, who was then a lobbyist for Greenberg Traurig, and the Tiguas. “Only last year, Mr. Abramoff attempted to convince the tribe to take out life insurance on its elders and make Eshkol Academy, the all-boys school he founded, the sole beneficiary,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “Mr. Abramoff claimed that the proceeds of the policies would go to his school, which would then pay Greenberg Traurig for the lobbying fees incurred by the Tigua.”

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