Sen. Martinez to donate Ney donations to charity


Published: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 11:45 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez will donate to charity the money that his election campaign received from an Ohio congressman whom convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff claims he bribed, the Florida Republican announced Friday.
Seven Republican members of the U.S. House from Florida also received money from Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, but press secretaries for most of them said there's no reason to return or donate the money because he has not been charged or convicted of anything.
Martinez will give $2,500 he received from Ney's American Liberty political action committee to Catholic Charities of Orlando.
"Senator Martinez wants to make it crystal clear to his constituents that he is not interested in any campaign donation that has even a hint of impropriety in this matter," spokeswoman Kerry Feehery wrote in an e-mail.
The announcement came just hours after the liberal group Campaign for a Cleaner Congress held a conference call with reporters to urge that the Floridians who had received contributions from American Liberty and Ney's campaigns return or donate the funds to charity.
Ney, meanwhile, was being pressured by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to resign as chairman of the House Administration Committee, a senior Republican House aide told The Associated Press.
Ney has denied bribery allegations by Abramoff and his partners, saying he is a victim of the lobbyist's schemes. He is facing the loss of his chairmanship as House Republicans push for lobbyist reform, much of which would pass through his committee.
Rep. Katherine Harris of Sarasota, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, received $8,000 for Ney, the most of any Floridian.
"We are not returning that money," said Harris spokeswoman Kara Borie. "He hasn't been convicted of anything."
But the fact Ney has not been charged doesn't matter because Ney received the cash from Abramoff's SunCruz Casinos and his American Indian tribe clients before passing it on, said Orlando lawyer Joe Egan, a member of Campaign for a Cleaner Congress and Democratic activist.
"The undisputed facts in this are sufficient to show this money is tainted," Egan said.
Ney's re-election campaigns and American Liberty gave $241,510 to 65 other House Republicans, including $15,500 to Floridians, since 2000, according to the campaign-finance tracker PoliticalMoneyLine. He also contributed $10,600 to five GOP senators, including $2,500 to Martinez.
Other Florida representatives listed: Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville, $2,000; Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, $1,000; Tom Feeney of Oviedo, $1,000; Mark Foley of Lake Worth, $1,000, Ric Keller of Orlando, $1,000 and John Mica of Casselberry, $2,500.
Abramoff pleaded guilty in Washington, D.C., to mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion related to his lobbying work on Jan. 3. The next day, he pleaded guilty in Miami to conspiracy and wire fraud charges stemming from his purchase of SunCruz in 2000.
Spokesmen for Diaz-Balart, Feeney, Foley and Mica also said there's no reason to return the money because Ney has not been charged.
"It is premature to speculate or prejudge before the investigation is complete," Feeney spokeswoman Shannon Corrado said in an e-mail.
Spokesmen for Keller and Brown-Waite did not have immediate comments.
"They're trying to divert attention from their own members of congress," said Foley spokesman Jason Kello, citing Democratic U.S. Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana.
Jefferson's legislative director pleaded guilty Wednesday to aiding and abetting bribery and conspiracy. He also said in court documents that a congressman identified only as "Representative A," but clearly referring to Jefferson, had demanded bribes related to African business deals.

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