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Politics

Feeney's Scotland jaunt broke rules

By Anita Kumar
Published January 4, 2007


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WASHINGTON - Rep. Tom Feeney violated U.S. House rules when he took a golfing trip to Scotland with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in 2003.

The House ethics committee announced Wednesday that Feeney, a Republican from the Orlando area, agreed to pay the cost of the trip - $5,643 - to the U.S. Treasury.

"We concluded that the trip did not comply with House rules," the committee's outgoing leaders, Reps. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and Howard Berman, D-Calif., said in a written statement.

Feeney says he thought a conservative think tank - the National Center for Public Policy Research - was paying for the trip that included a few rounds of golf at legendary St. Andrews. He said he learned later from newspaper reporters that Abramoff may have paid in violation of House rules that forbid members from taking free trips from lobbyists. He asked the committee to investigate.

"We agreed 100 percent with the committee's decision, and want to make sure that he's divested of even the appearance of any personal benefit from this trip," said Jason Roe, Feeney's chief of staff.

Roe said Feeney and the ethics committee agreed that he should write the check to the Treasury because it's still unclear who paid for the trip.

Naomi Seligman Steiner, a spokeswoman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group that has primarily criticized Republicans, said she is troubled that the committee did not determine who paid.

"This is just another example of the ethics committee not following through on its duties," she said.

In 2005, Feeney was labeled one of "the 13 most corrupt members of Congress" by the group.

Feeney went on the trip a year after one taken in 2002 by Rep. Robert W. Ney, an Ohio Republican who pleaded guilty last year to corruption charges involving the Abramoff case. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Republican who resigned from Congress last year after he was indicted in Texas for alleged improper fundraising, went on an Abramoff-financed trip in 2000.

Records and media reports show lawmakers - including Ney and DeLay - have helped Abramoff with his lobbying.

Roe said "there is not even a suggestion of inappropriate behavior or favors for Abramoff" by Feeney. "He's never stepped in our office, he's never lobbied us for anything," he said.

Times staff writer Wes Allison and researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Anita Kumar can be reached at akumar@sptimes.com or (202) 463-0576.

[Last modified January 4, 2007, 01:08:18]


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