When Ohio Republican Bob Ney announced last month that he wouldn't be seeking reelection to Congress, his lawyer said the decision was "a political and practical one and not a legal one." And on one level, maybe he was right: As the New York Times reports this morning, Ney has just checked himself into an inpatient alcohol rehab program.
But there was more than the "political and practical" going on, too. Sources tell the Times that Ney has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges in the Jack Abramoff investigation. An official announcement could come as early as today.
It's not exactly a surprise. Although Ney has insisted that he's innocent -- and, for a while, that he'd run for reelection even if he were indicted -- the writing has been on the wall, or at least in the court papers. In guilty pleas entered previously in the Abramoff case, the disgraced GOP lobbyist, Ney's former chief of staff and a couple of former Tom DeLay aides have said that Ney -- described in the papers as "Representative No. 1" -- received golf trips and other favors from Abramoff in exchange for favorable treatment for his clients.
The Times says that the deal Ney is taking will likely require some prison time. It's not yet clear what charges he'll face. The Cleveland Plain Dealer says that Ney will face "at least one criminal charge"; the Times says the charges will probably include conspiracy and making a false statement. One charge could involve Ney's claim on a House disclosure form that he won $34,000 from a private casino on a trip to London in 2003. As the Times says, the $34,000 Ney claimed to have won "coincided to a surprising degree" with the amount he happened to owe on his credit cards at the time.
Sources close to Ney tell the Washington Post that he'll blame "a long-standing problem with alcohol for behavior that spiraled down to illegality."
As for Ney's seat in Congress? Republican state Sen. Joy Padgett will take on Democrat Zack Space in November. Padgett won the Republican nomination in a special GOP primary Thursday. News of Ney's pending guilty plea hit the wires -- coincidence? -- just after the polls closed Thursday night.