Abramoff’s Muscle On The Hill

The Washington Post had a jaw-dropper of an article this weekend about shady lobbyist kingpin Jack Abramoff’s involvement in a fleet of casino ships, SunCruz Casinos. The piece has a dizzing array of allegations, including faked wire transfers, mafia ties and mysterious murders. Perhaps most interesting, however, was the fact that Abramoff used Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) to pressure a reluctant owner into selling his casino boats.

In early 2000, fleet owner Gus Boulis started to drag his feet on the sale. The Abramoff team flew into action.

Michael Scanlon, a former DeLay staffer hired by Abramoff, asked Ney to attack Boulis in the official Congressional Record. Ney only too happily complied. In March 2000, on the floor of the House, he charged, “Mr. Speaker, how SunCruz Casinos and Gus Boulis conduct themselves with regard to Florida laws is very unnerving.”

Boulis, folding under the pressure, made the deal.

Later that year, when a sadder-but-wiser Boulis realized Abramoff and his partner, Adam Kidan, had no intention of actually paying him for the casino fleet they’d in effect comandeered, he began to raise a ruckus. Again, sources say Abramoff tapped Ney to come to the rescue.

This time, Ney inserted into the official Congressional Record the following: “I have come to learn that SunCruz Casino now finds itself under new ownership.” Kidan’s “track record as a businessman and a citizen lead me to believe that he will easily transform SunCruz from a questionable enterprise to an upstanding establishment.”

Ney has deep financial ties to Abramoff and has been entangled in the lobbyist’s sticky ethics web in the past. Acting as Abramoff’s personal muscle on the Hill, however, is a new low. Mr. Ney, you have a lot of explaining to do.