Dozens of former constituents, neighbors and friends of Bob Ney greeted the self-described "lawmaker turned lawbreaker" as he signed copies of a new book that tells the story of his political career that ended in disgrace.
Ney wrote "Sideswiped: Lessons Learned Courtesy of the Hit Men of Capitol Hill" after serving time in prison for his conviction on corruption charges related to the scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The Republican was representing Ohio's 18th District in Congress in November 2006 when he was found guilty on federal charges of corruption and falsification of federal documents. Ney was sentenced to 30 months in prison, becoming the only elected official to go to jail because of corrupt dealings with Abramoff.
"Jack and I went away, but nothing much has changed," Ney said of the political climate in Washington, D.C., on Thursday while autographing copies of the book at Undo's West in St. Clairsville during an event sponsored by Words and Music Bookstore.
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
Former congressman Bob Ney autographs a copy of his book “Sideswiped,” based on his life and his experiences in Washington, D.C.
Ney said as a former lawmaker, he was shocked to find that the prison system does so little to rehabilitate inmates. He said most legislators are "oblivious" to how the corrections system works and termed it more of a "warehouse" than a venue for rehabilitation.
Ney said he wrote "Sideswiped" because he wanted to tell a story, adding he does not expect to get rich from sales of the book. He noted, though, that he understands that he left the people of East Ohio feeling embarrassed and disappointed by his conduct and offers an apology within the book's pages.
The book offers a look at Ney's path to sobriety and overcoming addiction using the 12-Step method.
Readers also can expect an insider's view of such figures as George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Karl Rove, Pope John Paul II, John Travolta and Mother Theresa, as well as Ney's experience with topics including Afghanistan, Iran and campaign finance reform.
Ney today lives in Newark, Ohio, and spends his time writing and helping others with recovery from addiction. He became a talk radio host and analyst following his release from prison.
As people gathered at Undo's Thursday, chatting with one another and sharing handshakes, hugs and kisses with Ney, he said he was very pleased with the turnout for the event.
"I've been treated better than I deserve," he said.
But many of those on hand disagreed. While they acknowledged Ney's criminal past, they said he served the region well while in office - as part of both the state and federal governments.
"He is the most responsive elected official I've worked with in my 30 years" in public service, said Larry Merry, director of the Belmont County Port Authority.
Ney suggested that others can learn from his mistakes.
"No matter what you do in life, you are going to run into bad situations ... ," he said. "If it feels wrong to you, don't do it. Try to stay on the right path."
Copies of the book are available at Words and Music Bookstore at Stratford Springs, Wheeling.