So Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) pled guilty. But is he cooperating?
I talked to Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who now runs the D.C.-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Ney's getting a pretty light sentence, she said -- but what's more, he's hardly giving anything up: There's no line in the plea agreement stating Ney would snitch to prosecutors on anyone but himself, unlike the earlier pleas of Jack Abramoff and others.
"It doesn't look like he's providing any cooperation," she said. "I don't think he could. I don't think he knows something."
Ney faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for the crimes he admitted. In return, prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of 27 months.
"Bob Ney got off pretty easy," Sloan said. "He's getting a very light sentence. He could have gotten a lot more time."
But Sloan said she wasn't shocked Ney likely won't pull a long stretch in the pokey. "Considering that Duke Cunningham only ended up with 8 years, I'm not surprised. I don't think that what Ney did was as bad as Duke Cunningham â but in general I donât think these guys get the punishment that they should."
Pointing out the many bribes Ney has admitted taking, Sloan suggested that Ney's slim sentence of two years might even "provide incentive for others to behave badly."
But what about the other misdeeds Ney confessed? Others have been implicated (though not yet indicted) for some of the same nefarious activities. They'd best watch out, Sloan said. In particular, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), whose staff, like Ney's, accepted free tickets from Abramoff, and who also has been reported as frequenting Abramoff's restaurant Signatures, "has a lot to worry about."
"The Jack Abramoff story is far from over," she said. "This is going to be going on for awhile."