Ney Cops a Plea: Another Blow to the GOP?

The guilty plea and planned resignation of Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney is more of a symbolic blow to the GOP and its hopes for maintaining control of Congress than a substantive one.

Ney pleaded guilty in a Washington courtroom today to conspiracy and making false statements.

He got caught up in the wide-ranging federal investigation into corruption that involved the once-powerful Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff faces jail time stemming from his efforts to defraud his clients and curry favor with lawmakers.

Democrats for months have tried to make corruption part of their overall call for change as part of a rhetorical attack on the party that has dominated Washington for most of the last six years.

The timing of Ney's guilty plea -- along with the controversy involving former Rep. Mark Foley, and ethics committee and FBI probes of how Republican leaders handled the Foley matter -- has given Democrats new impetus to talk about a "culture of corruption" in Washington.

In races around the country, Democratic House candidates are raising issues of personal morality and past actions of Republicans, even in cases that do not directly relate to Abramoff or Foley.

In one race, for instance, Democrats have focused on a decades-old incident involving allegations of drunken driving by a veteran Republican congressman.

Still, these scandals -- which also include the indictment of another Republican congressman, the resignation of former GOP House leader Tom DeLay, and the indictment of several senior congressional aides and one Bush administration official -- have not become the dominant issue in the midterm elections.

President Bush is leading a Republican charge to frame the campaign around national security and taxes.

And even in Ohio -- where a series of state scandals has made the allegations of a "culture of corruption" even more powerful -- Republicans have a chance to hold onto the seat Ney plans to vacate.

Only minutes after Ney appeared in court, House Republican leaders put out a joint statement denouncing him in harsh terms.

And Republicans are making hay out of an ethics flap involving Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader who has come under fire for his failure to fully report the terms of a lucrative land deal.

With less than a month to go before voters head to the polls, and control of Congress the central battle for both insiders in Washington and the nation, events such as Ney's guilty plea and resignation are part of the mix, but they have not clearly overtaken the other issues -- including and especially the war in Iraq -- that are before the voters.