Tom Feeney - Yet Another Blackeye for Florida

September 25, 2008

Tom Feeney, a Republican congressman from Florida's 24th district, is another embarrassment to the state. As if it wasn't bad enough that he took a junket to Scotland with Abramoff in 2003, now he has a ridiculous campaign ad trying to excuse himself!

Here it is:

I have seen stupid campaign ads, but this tops them all! Feeney didn't know who paid for his August 2003 trip to Scotland with Abramoff? How many people get on a private jet without knowing who funded the trip?

Here's what the St Petersberg Times quoted Feeney as saying after he found out the media was knew about his ties to Abramoff:
"Rep. Feeney considers this an embarrassing episode in his 17-year career as an elected official and an expensive lesson for him as a public servant," according to the statement.

Feeney is one of three House members who accompanied Abramoff to Scotland on trips that included rounds of golf at the legendary Royal & Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews.

The others are: former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who is serving prison time for corruption, and former House Republican leader Tom DeLay, indicted in Texas for alleged improper fundraising, is under investigation.

"The Justice Department has been investigating activity surrounding Jack Abramoff," according to Feeney's statement. "The Justice Department has contacted Rep. Feeney to request more information regarding this matter and he is pleased to voluntarily cooperate."
Feeney says he thought that his trip was paid for by the National Center for Public Policy Research, the Republican think tank that served as a clearinghouse for Abramoff funds. They denied funding the trip. The NCPPR was founded by Abramoff friend, Amy Ridenour, who was one of the first Saipan junket-takers. She contributed to pushing the CNMI anti-federalization pro-Marianas labor agenda as an email exchange between her and Abramoff indicates. Abramoff served on the Board of Directors of NCPPR until October 2004.

After Feeney was exposed, after the FBI came knocking, and after reporters started calling, Feeney decided to consult with the Ethics Committee in 2005. He then wrote a personal check for $5,643, the alleged cost of the 2003 golf trip, and gave it to the U.S. Treasury. No punishment from the Ethics Committee; he just gave some money to the U.S. government. To make matters worse, the money he contributed represented only a fraction of the actual cost of the trip which included the cost of of a private jet.

The criminal complaint against convicted Abramoff co-conspirator Mark Zachares, former Secretary of the CNMI Department of Labor and Immigration, reads:
16. From on or about August 9, 2003, through on or about August 14, 2003, ZACHARES, Abramoff and six other individuals, including a Member of the United States House of Representatives (Representative #3), traveled to Scotland to play golf on world-famous courses. Abramoff and his clients paid nearly all expenses for the trip for all participants, including ZACHARES and Representative #3, including costs in excess of $160,000 for private jet service between Maryland and Scotland, luxury hotel accommodations in Scotland, twice-daily golf at St. Andrews and other famous courses, meals, drinks, and local transportation.
Feeney is Representative #3. Let's see - 8 people went to Scotland, and the trip cost in excess of $160,000 so that makes each share come out to? He needs to donate a lot more than $5,643.

The Scotland junket wasn't the only trip Feeney took from a lobbyist. Since elected to the US. Congress in 2002, Feeney has taken 16 trips totaling $61,449 paid for by right wing think tanks, lobbyists, and other organizations. In February 2003, Feeney took a trip to Asia paid for by Korea -US Exchange Council formed by Ed Buckham, former chief of staff for Tom Delay. The nine day trip included stops in Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and China. The Korean - US Exchange Council was registered as foreign agent with the Department of Justice and is financed by the Korean Hanwha Group chaired by Sueng Youn Kim. Julie Doolittle, wife of Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), also under investigation by the FBI, worked for the Korea - US Exchange Council.

Feeney traveled to West Palm Beach, Florida in November 2003. The trip was also allegedly paid for by a registered lobbying firm. In February 2007, Feeney accepted a $6,539.39 trip to Hamburg and Munich Germany paid for by the International Management and Development Institute run by APCO Worldwide lobbyist, Don Bonker. They also funded a 2003 trip to Paris, France and Stuttgart, Germany.

Feeney staffer Jason Roe said,
"Any assertion that this office knew Abramoff paid for the Scotland trip is a g--d----- lie," Roe wrote in the email being sought by the FBI. The email was quoted in a newspaper article last year."
It seems staffer Roe also enjoys traveling. Since serving for Feeney, has taken 17 trips paid for by think tanks and other organizations.

The St. Petersberg Times noted that Feeney didn't just like to accept money, he also threw money around:
Feeney paid the tab at Abramoff's Washington restaurant, Signatures, at least three times, twice when the costs were more than $2,000, according to Feeney's campaign finance reports.
Some background. Feeney started his political career in 1990 as a member of Florida's House of Representatives. In 1994 he ran as lieutenant governor on a ticket with Jeb Bush and lost. Feeney served as Florida's House Speaker. He played a prominent role in the Florida 2000 presidential election scandal helping to ensure that Bush stole the election from Al Gore. Feeney worked hand-in-hand with Katherine Harris, and the Abramoff's Greenberg Taurig firm hired to secure votes for Bush during the Florida recount. Raw Story reported:
Four of Abramoff’s colleagues—all of whom have left Greenberg in the wake of investigations surrounding Abramoff’s activities—were foot soldiers in the Florida recount. Two of them bragged of their recount work on their official online Greenberg biographies, which have since been removed.

Shawn Vasell noted that he was a “team leader” in Broward and Duval counties in his bio; Duane Gibson was photographed in the acclaimed “Brooks Brothers riot” of Republican operatives outside the Miami-Dade County polling headquarters; Todd Boulanger boasted of being on the Broward and Duval recount team in his profile. Also on the ground was former DeLay deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy.
Perhaps the meetings during the recount days led to Feeney's introduction to his idol, Tom Delay. Feeney was reportedly a loyal Delay follower, voting with him "almost all the time", and donating $5,000 to his legal defense fund.

Feeney was allegedly involved in a voting machine fraud scheme. The scheme involved controlling the vote in West Palm Beach, Florida. You may be wondering, "How does this guy get elected?" I forgot to mention Feeney led the Florida congressional redistricting plan to help ensure that Republicans win.

In 2001 the ACLU took Feeney to task for his "voting reform legislation". In 2002, he banned a Palm Beach Post reporter from the House floor for writing unflattering stories about Feeney's aide who used her state email account to contact lobbyists and Republican Party workers concerning Feeney campaign events.

Feeney created the Conservative check card, a wallet sized card with six conservative principles members of congress can check before they vote. Abramoff buddy Grover Norquist said this about the check card:
“The federal budget keeps ballooning in the face of more discussions about fiscal restraint...Conservative Check Cards make it less convenient for lawmakers to toss aside fiscal sensibility when it’s time to vote or craft legislation.”
Feeney also accepted over $5,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff and his friends Tony Rudy, Edwin Buckham, and his wife Wendy between 2003 and 2006.

In July 2006 Feeney's real estate deals were exposed. In 2003 he bought rental property with a partner and failed to report it, which was a violation of the House rules.

Good luck to Feeney's opponent, Suzanne Kosmas. Hopefully, Tom Feeney will find himself searching for another job soon. I've re-written his campaign ad for him to read more accurately:
Hi, I'm Tom Feeney, corrupt legislator from Oviedo, Florida. When I was speaker of the Florida House, I helped to rig the 2000 presidential elections in Florida. So you can thank me for having Bush as your president, and for eight years that have brought our nation to its knees.
I accepted several trips from lobbyists and organizations supported by lobbyists including one to West Palm Beach, one to Scotland, several to Europe, and one to Asia. I like to travel and I like staying in fancy hotels. I don't really care who pays for the trips or what I have to do in Congress as payback to the trip funders. (wink) I am a little upset that the FBI is investigating me and the press found out about my activities, and yes, I am sorry for that. I have had to pour money into a legal defense fund. I may be indicted, but I am willing to take my chances. Heck, my pals Doolittle, Delay, and Young haven't been indicted yet. I support them. I even paid $5,000 to Tom Delay's legal defense fund. So what if I spent thousands of dollars paying for friends' meals at Abramoff's Signatures Restaurant? People have to eat. I hope the Florida voters will forget my voting record and my corrupt schemes, and will turn out to vote for me in November. Don't worry about that scheme to rig voting machines. A vote for me is a vote to put the duh back in Flori-duh.


KAP said...

His "I didn't know what I was doing ad" is amazing.

Is it getting any traction?

PNGed twice said...

The US Congress must act against these elected representatives being bribed on a day to day basis.

Perhaps the decent citizens should put their fate on public referendum.

wd said...

Hi KAP, the ad is getting a great deal of attention in the press. Most people I talk to think it's just incredible that he had the audacity to 1. say he was a rookie when he has been a politician for years and 2. lie that he didn't know who paid for the trip.

I think it will hurt him in the long run. One can only hope...

Anonymous said...

Feeney is stuck on stupid.