Investigation Dropped Against Former Rep. Tom Feeney

August 1, 2009

The U.S. Department of Justice has allegedly dropped the investigation of former Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Florida) who accepted an expensive golf trip from his pal, convicted felon Jack Abramoff. This information comes not from the DOJ, but from Feeney's Washington, DC-based attorney Robert Luskin.

The Orlando Sentinel broke the story:
The Feeney investigation was part of a broad federal inquiry into Abramoff, a Washington influence-peddler whose web of corruption led to the convictions of several Capitol Hill aides and one congressman, former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

Last year, Abramoff got four years on corruption charges for trading luxuries such as golf junkets for political favors. Feeney was a target because of the 2003 Scotland trip, one of three that Abramoff took with lawmakers in the early half of the decade.

The trip, a $160,000 junket for eight that was paid for by a think tank connected to Abramoff, came during Feeney's first year in Congress. At the time, his résumé as a former Florida House speaker and fiery conservative made him a rising star among newly elected Republicans.
A House ethics committee determined in 2007 that the golf junket — luxury-hotel accommodations and a round of golf at the famed Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews — violated congressional rules.

Feeney agreed to pay $5,643 to the U.S. Treasury for what he said was his share. But he hotly denied ever doing any favors for Abramoff and said he paid his own airfare and greens fees.

The ethics ruling triggered a federal investigation. FBI officials called three Florida newspapers, including the Orlando Sentinel, for information. The department, however, never acknowledged the investigation, which is standard practice.

But it was confirmed this summer, when a Washington appellate court ruled in June on a challenge to investigators' efforts to subpoena information submitted by Feeney to the ethics committee in his own defense. The grand-jury subpoena was issued after Feeney refused to talk to investigators.
According to the Sentinel Feeney spent $198,000 in legal expenses using money from both his legal defense fund and his campaign account.

Feeney's supporters including his outspoken former chief of staff, Jason Roe claim that he would have won the last election against Suzanne Kosmas had it not been for the DOJ investigation. I seriously doubt that. Feeney has stepped over the line in the minds of ethical voters not just with golf clubs, but in many situations. Here is some background on Mr. Feeney.

Former Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) was under investigation by federal officials for his involvement in the Abramoff scandal for two years. 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 served prison time for corruption, and former House Republican leader Tom DeLay, indicted in Texas for alleged improper fundraising, is under investigation.

Feeney claimed 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 pushed 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 how much? He needs to donate a lot more than $5,643.

The Scotland junket wasn't the only trip Feeney took from a lobbyist. Since he became a member of the U.S. Congress in 2002, Feeney took 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.
Here is some background on Feeney's early political years. Tom 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. Feeney also led the controversial Florida congressional redistricting plan.

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 that members of Congress could 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.

Thankfully, Feeney was defeated by Rep. Suzanne Kosmos (D-FL) in the last election. Hopefully, he'll have the good sense to spare the people of Florida and not run again.

Feeney currently is registered as a lobbyist in Florida with Fowler O'Quinn Feeney and Sneed PA.

For an in-depth analysis on Feeney's case visit my friend at The Anti Corruption Republican.


Anonymous said...

Will the US ever do anything in Saipan about the Delay/Fitial/Tan/Abramoff deal?

Anonymous said...

No federal law was violated in the CNMI in this regard.

So, no.

(The vindictiveness of AUSA Benedetto notwithstanding.)

To Noni 10:15 AM said...

You are wrong. The US has already “done something.”

Rep. George Miller, with his minions Allen P. Stayman, David Barrett Cohen, and James J. Benedetto, have already federalized the CNMI's minimum wage and immigration. That is the US's “final answer.”

That'll teach those uppity natives not to lobby Congress and speak up about local self-government.


Criminal Defense Lawyer said...

Notably, each member of that “Punish the CNMI” Quadrumvirate has a double consonant in his name.

Wendy, it is the policy of the USDOJ to neither confirm nor deny the existence of an FBI or other investigation. So, of course, you'll rarely get a formal DOJ announcement that an investigation has closed, either.

However, such notifications to the lawyer for the target of the investigation are common.

Anonymous said...

Noni 10:15

There were criminal violations including (but not limited to):

accepting tickets to games in Washington and Baltimore, trips and other gifts from the lobbyists

the scam with Fitial, Scanlon and Abramoff to bribe Mendiola and Palacios to vote for him for Speaker in exchange for $$$ for infrastructure projects for Rota and Tinian

Enron and Cisco funny deals with CUC

Benedetto vindictive? Ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

Only the second of the three examples listed above has anything to do with the Delay/Fitial/Tan/Abramoff allegations. The DOJ Criminal Division has undoubtedly determined that there was no "bribe" involving any of the four, and that criminal action is not warranted.

Check out the statutes of limitations on these alleged 2001 or 2003 offenses. As someone has pointed out upthread, DOJ doesn't normally issue non-prosecution announcements.

Anonymous said...

As far as we know, the DoJ has "not undoubtedly determined that there was no "bribe" involving any of the four, and that criminal action is not warranted." Did the DoJ inform Fitial he is no longer under investigation?

Crimes were committed whether they are excused under the statute of limitation or not. Maybe the criminals should be judged at the ballot box, if not in the courts!

Anonymous said...

We are fortunate indeed that the CNMI electorate has moved beyond the tactic of self-interested politicians and self-styled reformers falsely accusing others of crime and corruption to benefit their own candidates or as a vile slur to eliminate those they disfavor.

Those days are gone. It is a new day. Better Times. You thought it was only about standing up to the economic onslaught. No, it's about moral virtue. Convicting the wicked and empowering the inherent virtue of our people. Better times are self-governing times. Better times are self-empowered times. Better times means a strong voice for the people, Governor and Delegate. Better times means 20% of the budget spent on education, and people smart enough not to vote on lies and rumors.

DOJ didn't prosecute Ben because he is an icon, a model of rectitude.

With Fitial-haters like AUSA Benedetto in control, you can be most sure that if DOJ had even a scrap of evidence against Ben, he would have been charged. There is none.

You are right, the people will indeed decide at the ballot box. And yesterday's lies won't work.

Let it BE!

Anonymous said...

Nonis at 10:15, 10:48, 11:18 and 7:40

What is your problem with Mr. Benedetto? You just can't stand that he is intelligent, successful and a respected attorney so you falsely accuse him of being vindictive, hating Fitial, and trying to punish the CNMI.

Better times? Defend that statement.

Anonymous said...

If no federal laws were broken, how come Willie is afraid to set foot in U.S. soil?

Anonymous said...

Says who?! If Willie were indicted under seal, it would be easy enough for the government to revoke his U.S. passport.


Wendy said...

How did this post on a former member of the U.S. Congress from the state of Florida turn into undeserved attacks on a competent U.S. attorney? Who are these anonymous commenters?

Thanks at least to the commenter for clarifying that the DOj does not issue statements to announce that a case is closed. Apparently they just inform the person who was under investigation and don't make a formal statement. (Or maybe they want to keep the door open -I have no idea.) Too bad for the citizens of our country who would like to see justice done in cases where elected officials have breached the public trust and have wasted our tax dollars to benefit themselves.

Steve Martin said...

Who are the anonymous commentators? They are tiny-brained wipers of other people's bottoms.

Chamberonomics said...

It took a Democratic US Congress to finally get the federalization bill past GOP corruption, bribery, and flagrant abuses of power. We now have representation in Congress which has already proven effective, and better than bribery for improve the reputations of the citizens of the CNMI. Imrproved wages will help the citizens here as well.

Hell no to the status quo.