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Rep. Feeney owes public answers, now

Published April 29, 2007


The confessions of the latest aide to plead guilty in the Jack Abramoff congressional corruption scandal leave U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, in a vulnerable position. Feeney has repeatedly said he was duped into thinking his 2003 Scotland golfing trip was financed by a nonprofit think tank. But now we know the erroneous name and expense Feeney reported came from Abramoff.

Mark Zachares, a former aide to Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young, has admitted to investigators that he schemed with Abramoff to conceal both the amount and the source of money for the lavish outing. An e-mail from former Abramoff assistant Holly Bowers directed several congressional staffers to report the trip as financed by the National Center for Public Policy Research at a cost of $5, 643 per person.

"In fact, as Zachares knew, the costs were higher, there was no official purpose, and Zachares attended the trip for the free golf and to further his relationship and plan with Abramoff, " said a new court document.

Feeney was on the same Scotland trip as Zachares, and one recipient of the Bowers e-mail was Feeney's then-executive assistant Eliza Baker. On House disclosure forms, Feeney reported the same source and same amount, $5, 463, as directed by the e-mail. When asked to explain the similarity, his press secretary would say only that: "Representative Feeney is anxious to discuss this matter further when the time is appropriate."

If the congressman believes his constituents and a public fed up with scandal can wait until "the time is appropriate, " he is mistaken. Eleven people now have been convicted in the Abramoff investigation, and Feeney is being labeled in court records as "Representative #3." He has said he was "duped and lied to, " but these records make his office look complicit.

Feeney's attorney may be urging him to keep quiet, but his legal tactic is at odds with his official responsibilities. He is a congressman with a cloud over his head, and the public is owed some answers.

[Last modified April 28, 2007, 22:43:10]

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