View Full Version : Lobbying: The Web Widens

01-15-2006, 12:54 PM
Lobbying: The Web Widens


Jan. 23, 2006 issue - Ohio Rep. Robert Ney personally lobbied the then Secretary of State Colin Powell to relax U.S. sanctions on Iran. Who asked him to? A convicted airplane broker who had just taken the congressman and a top aide on an expense-paid trip to London, NEWSWEEK has learned. Ney's lawyer confirmed to NEWSWEEK that federal prosecutors have subpoenaed records on Ney's February 2003 trip paid for by Nigel Winfield, a thrice-convicted felon who ran a company in Cyprus called FN Aviation. Winfield was seeking to sell U.S.-made airplane spare parts to the Iranian government—a deal that would have needed special permits because of U.S. sanctions against Tehran. Ney's lawyer, Mark Tuohey, said Ney had no idea of Winfield's criminal past, which included a 1982 conviction for trying to swindle Elvis Presley in an airplane deal and two more in the late 1980s for tax evasion. Tuohey said there was "absolutely nothing improper" about Ney's raising the issue of Iranian sanctions with Powell and other Bush administration officials. At the time, there had been a number of civilian plane crashes in Iran attributable to a lack of spare parts. Ney, who had a longstanding interest in Iran, considered easing sanctions to allow spare-parts sales a "humanitarian" matter, Tuohey said.

The Justice Department subpoenas of Ney's travel records grew out of the Jack Abramoff lobbying case. Ney is identified in Abramoff's recent plea agreement as "Representative #1," who allegedly agreed to intervene on behalf of one of Abramoff's Indian tribal clients after receiving political contributions and an earlier all-expense-paid golfing trip to Scotland arranged by Abramoff. The Iranian airline deal shows how the Abramoff case is already expanding into a broader investigation into D.C. lobbying practices. Ney was introduced to Winfield by lobbyists Roy Coffee, a former legislative aide to the then Gov. George W. Bush, and David DiStefano, who had previously been Ney's chief of staff. Coffee and DiStefano (who did not respond to requests for comment) arranged for Ney and a staff member to fly over to London, where Winfield and his Syrian-born business partner, Fouad Al-Zayat, pitched the congressman on their business plan. Back in Washington, Ney talked to Powell, Tuohey said. But "nothing ever came of it," Tuohey said, because the company's deal fell through. Spokespeople for Powell and the State and Commerce departments (which administer U.S. trade sanctions) had no immediate responses to requests for comment.

—Mark Hosenball, Michael Isikoff and Holly Bailey

© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.

01-15-2006, 08:03 PM
Rep. Ney to Temporarily Cede Panel Chair


10 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Rep Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican implicated in a lobbying corruption investigation, will step aside temporarily as chairman of the House Administration Committee, his spokesman said Sunday.

He said the congressman needed a few days to think about the decision after word got out Friday that he was in negotiations with House Speaker Dennis Hastert to relinquish the post.

"Congressman Ney continues to believe he will be vindicated and he hasn't done anything wrong," spokesman Brian Walsh said Sunday.

Ney is at the center of the Justice Department's ongoing corruption probe and was identified by lobbyist Jack Abramoff in his guilty plea earlier this month.

The Administration Committee controls disclosures of lobbying practices and would be a key part of efforts to reform the system.

Walsh said Ney did not want to become a distraction as the Republican Party tries to reform Congress' relationship with lobbyists and special interests.

Ney will maintain his chairmanship of a Housing subcommittee, Walsh said.