Former Congressman Ney Was a ‘Functioning Alcoholic’

By Maddy Sauer

Jan 18, 2007 2:36pm

A staffer of former Congressman Bob Ney’s says Ney was a "functioning alcoholic who could rarely make it through the day without drinking and would often begin drinking beers as early as 7:30 a.m." The statements by Ney’s former staffer Matthew Parker were made in a letter to Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle on the eve of Ney’s sentencing for his role in the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal. Attorneys for Ney submitted 95 pages of letters from family, friends and constituents who ask that the court consider leniency when sentencing the former Ohio congressman who pled guilty last year to accepting lavish gifts from lobbyists, including Abramoff, in exchange for taking official action at Abramoff’s request. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Follow the Bouncing Bribe Scandal: Keeping Tabs on the Abramoff Lobbying Investigation Congressman Ney Has His Day in Court, Pleads Guilty Click Here to Check Out the Latest Brian Ross Webcast Many of the letters cite Ney’s career accomplishments, but a few offer an inside look from those close to him at why they believe Ney made the poor decisions that he did. "I firmly believe that Bob’s addiction to alcohol drove him to make some bad decisions," writes Parker. "He drank too much on a regular basis, and it began to interfere with his judgment in his personal life and as a Member of Congress." Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Parker goes on to say that since his resignation, Ney has become a "changed man" and has gone through extensive counseling and rehabilitation. In another letter of support, Ellen Ratner, bureau chief for Washington, D.C.’s "The Hill" newspaper, writes that she was aware of Ney’s drinking problem as far back as the year 2000 but only confronted him about her concerns last February. "Although he takes full responsibility," Ratner writes, "I believe that alcohol was the driving force behind those poor judgments." Another friend of Ney’s, Wesley Leggett, writes, "The disease of alcoholism took this man from being a very successful state senator and United States Congressman to now facing many legal and financial consequences. His drinking severely clouded his judgment, as well as his ability to make sound, clear decisions." Among his poor decisions, Ney has admitted to accepting luxurious trips from Abramoff, including a golf trip to Scotland, valued at over $160,000, and a gambling trip to New Orleans, according to the his plea agreement. In exchange for these trips and other gifts, which include meals, concert tickets and tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, Ney agreed to take numerous official actions on behalf of Abramoff. Prosecutors are recommending Ney spend 29 months behind bars for his role in the bribery scandal. Ney’s lawyers are hoping for a lighter sentence, and they are asking the judge to recommend him for treatment in the Bureau of Prisons drug abuse program. Read selected letters in support of leniency for former Congressman Bob Ney.

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