I followed the law, didn't trade favors

By TOM FEENEY Special to the Times
Published May 3, 2007

I would like to take this opportunity to address recent articles and editorials by the St. Petersburg Times regarding my association with a high-profile case.

First and foremost, I say without any hesitation that during my 16 years of public service, I have personally followed the law and in no way ever traded legislative favors for personal gain. Any suggestion otherwise is untrue and incredibly offensive.

The implication in Sunday's St. Petersburg Times article that I traded legislative favors to benefit a lobbyist is an outright lie. I take my responsibility and oath to this office very seriously and have represented constituents with the integrity they deserve.

In August 2003, I went on a trip to Scotland, based on an invitation to meet governmental dignitaries. I was told that a public policy group was sponsoring the trip. My staff contacted the House Ethics Committee prior to my going on the trip and was told that members had gone on similar trips in the recent past.

At the time of the trip, I personally paid for my flight out of Scotland, greens fees and other activities. As soon as I learned that there was concern about the trip and trip sponsor, I took it upon myself to request an opinion from the Ethics Committee on how to proceed to ensure that all legal and ethical steps were taken by me. I immediately followed their direction and wrote a personal check to the U.S. Treasury in the only amount that had been reported to my office at the time in association with the trip, as is standard practice.

I would like to clarify the fact that the House Ethics Committee has made no finding that I violated any House rules, and they have since closed their file on this.

On Sunday, the St. Petersburg Times editorial board implied that I conspired with criminals in order to receive personal gain, and I once again state with absolute conviction that I did no such thing. Investigations continue, and I have been told I am not a target of the investigation. I feel that it is entirely appropriate and necessary that there will be a thorough and immediate investigation, and I am happy to voluntarily provide information to investigators. I know that the more information they have, the clearer it will become that I followed the law.

As I have said before, and will say again, I am saddened and embarrassed to be associated on any level with anyone who abused the public trust. While I wish in retrospect that I had never been on that trip, I am certain that all facts uncovered will prove that I acted only in accordance with the law.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney represents Florida's 24th District.