I am terribly saddened over the fate of my friend Bob Ney. I know the proper position is supposed to be outrage over his "shaking down the system" and being part of the "culture of corruption", but I see a man who tried to do good and got run over by a system way out of control.
Bob is going to spend 30 months in a federal prison in Morgantown, WV (and yes, before some sarcastic caller asks, I do plan to visit him when I can). He will also get treatment for his alcohol addiction. You may have heard some of the comments from close friends who tell of his heavy drinking. I must say I was aware of the same problem.
Bob was a man who always had the interests of his district at heart. But he was also a man of small means, who became a major player on the national stage. A stage that runs off 2 things--cash and connections. For "the Congressman" to maintain his stature, he needed to be at the best restaurants, attend the sky box games, and play at the best courses. Bob Ney's family is a fine one (I know them) but not a wealthy one); and Bob's only career was that of a public servant which meant there wasn't much money after the bills were paid.
Bob Ney played the game he saw being played every day in DC. He took the steps he felt he had to take to stay in a position to help his district.
It was a mistake. It was wrong. And he is paying the price.
I had a note from Bob this week. His house has been sold. His family scattered. He has filtered his life to a box of memories. He has lost all he had. For those who say he made himself rich, you should know he has nothing at all.
But he has family and friends.
And a box full of memories.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the leadership crows about changes in ethics.
And there is a young Congressman somewhere who is just starting to serve his citizens wondering how he can manage to keep up with the high-fliers who seem to run the town.
And a guy in a suit nearby is smiling.