In my ongoing quest to research what my Congressman John Boehner has — or has not — done for his district, I came across this book by former United States Congressman from Ohio Robert Ney. Ney, was a colleague of Boehner and, let’s just say, there does not appear to be any love lost between the two.
Ney was convicted of a felony in 2006 in what came to be known as the Abramoff Scandal. Sideswiped: Lessons Learned Courtesy of the Hit Men of Capital Hill is an autobiographical look at Ney’s life, the scandal, the jail sentence and beyond. Even if you are not aware of the scandal — or only have a cursory interest in politics — I highly recommend the book because it adds to the public arena two aspects of America that most citizens will not experience firsthand.
- It gives the average American a look at how the political machine — regardless which side of the coin a reader lands on — is bigger than any one individual and how it can consume and corrupt. Makes no bones about it, Ney does not excuse his behavior, he readily admits he is a recovering alcoholic and that he had ethical lapses. He does not write from the angle of ‘have pity on me,’ but writes almost as a dispassionate journalist relaying what transpired in his life and career. Because he was in politics for such a long time, he provides some interesting insight to modern U.S. events like voting reform legislation — and on the less newsy side Freedom Fries.
- Ney also provides an interesting look at how the penal system works. Ney matter-of-factly relays how he and other, especially political, felons were treated inside the system. Most interesting, I think, was how the halfway house was run and some of the ludicrous — and archaic — rules that were in place that tended to prevent, rather than promote, a convict’s re-entry into society.
In his book, though, Ney, who seems to have little to lose (he went from about $600-a-day salary to less than $2,000/month), shows his southeastern Ohio roots and is more than willing to throw others under the bus — including Boehner. He writes,
“[Boehner] was considered a man who was all about winning and money. He was a chain-smoking, relentless wine drinker who was more interested in the high life — golf, women, cigarettes, fun, and alcohol.”
When the book was released in 2013, Boehner’s spokesperson Michael Steel said,
“This is a convicted felon with a history of failing to tell the truth making a lot of baseless accusations to try and sell books. More than anything else, it’s sad.”
Readers will decide for themselves who they believe, but despite the mud-slinging, the book does shine a light on the unscrupulous connection between lobbyists, politicians and the resulting legislation that is imposed on the American public because of who has a Congressman’s ‘ear.’
Rated 4 out of 5. My main critique of the book are the sidebars. It appears Ney is sifting through a lot of information as he writes. In his defense, it would be very difficult to compress nearly three decades of public life into a 363 page book. However, what he does is include some of the ‘extra’ information in parenthesis and italics, which, at least for me, was somewhat distracting as it tended to interfere with the overall flow of the book.