Republican U.S. Congressman Tom Feeney of Florida's 24th District has been ordered today by the House Ethics Committee to pay $5,643 for the cost of a "recreational" golf trip to St. Andrews, Scotland, which he had taken with the now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in 2003. The bill had been previously paid for by Abramoff, the committee has found.
The slap on the wrist issued today by the U.S. House Ethics Committee on the last day before the change-over to the new Congress was announced in a terse, one paragraph, bare-bones statement posted to the committee's website. AP reported the matter here. Outgoing defeated Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) was also found in violation of House rules and has agree to pay back more than $23,000 in inappropriate gifts.
The findings from the Ethics Committee, however, may be just the tip of the iceberg for Feeney as there continues to be a number of other allegations and claims of misconduct, both new and old, which still hang precariously over the Congressman's head.
The claimed cost of Feeney's Scotland trip, $5,643, was apparently supplied to the committee by the Congressman himself in March of 2005 after the many tentacles of the Abramoff corruption scandal were beginning to reveal themselves. Only after the trip had been reported by the media did Feeney take the matter to the Ethics Commission.
Feeney, who has been named for the second year running as one of the "Most Corrupt Members of Congress" by the non-partisan ethics watchdog group the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), had previously claimed that the trip, and several others, were pre-approved by the House Ethics Committee. As well, he had also originally claimed on his disclosure forms for the Scotland trip that it had been paid for by the National Center for Public Policy. The center has denied paying for the trip and Feeney has supplied no evidence that we're aware of that the Ethics Committee had pre-approved his vacation with Abramoff or any of the others.
In a statement released this afternoon, the National Center for Public Policy Research reiterated their denial of having had anything to do with Feeney's travels, despite continue statements from Feeney's office suggesting that they did. "The National Center for Public Policy Research played no role in this trip," the statement reads, "and only learned of its existence from media inquiries two years after it was taken."
No action has yet been taken on the other questionable vacations, one to Korea which was sponsored by he Korea-U.S. Exchange Council (KORUSEC), a registered foreign agent, and another to West Palm Beach, Florida, which Feeney had listed as having been paid for by a lobbying firm, which would also be a violation of House rules.
According to the Orlando Sentinel today, Feeney’s Chief of Staff Jason Roe --- who has had his own conduct questioned --- said of Feeney: "He’s personally and professionally embarrassed and considering it an expensive lesson."
The "lesson" however, was not all that "expensive" by Congressional standards, and certainly not if the $1.3 million that Feeney raised, mostly from corporate PACs, to spend on his recent campaign might be any indication of the funds that the once-exceedingly powerful Florida Republican has quick and easy access to.
"It's like he robbed a bank and was just asked to give back the money," said Naomi Seligman Steiner of CREW in deriding the light treatment given to Feeney by the commission.
The other two congressmen who had gone on junkets to St. Andrews with Abramoff, Tom Delay (R-TX) and Bob Ney (R-OH), have since resigned in the wake of criminal charges and guilty pleas. The cost for former Republican Majority Leader Delay's trip to Scotland with Abramoff was estimated to have been between $70,000 and $100,000. Feeney is the only Congress member of the three still serving in the U.S. House.
He was recently declared the winner by the state of Florida in the U.S. House race for 24th congressional district where Feeney ran one of the dirtiest --- and most expensive --- U.S. House campaigns in the nation against Clint Curtis, a computer programmer turned whistleblower. In early December of 2004, The BRAD BLOG broke the news of Curtis's affidavit alleging that Feeney was involved in a conspiracy to create electronic vote-rigging software when both men worked for the same Oviedo, Florida, software firm, Yang Enterprises, Inc. (YEI), in 2000. At the time, Feeney was employed as YEI's general counsel and registered lobbyist, even while he served as the powerful speaker of Florida's House of Representatives.
Curtis also charged at the time that Feeney had helped cover up a number of other legal violations by the company, including the employment of illegal aliens at YEI who he claimed had had been spying for Communist China. Curtis also alleged YEI was over-billing on state contracts and had been inserting illegal wiretapping modules into software the firm had been contracted to write for NASA and the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT). In the ensuing years, one of YEI's employees, Hai Lin "Henry" Nee, the man Curtis accused of writing the wiretapping modules, pled guilty after being arrested by Federal Authorities in a four year sting in which he admitted sending computer chips used in Hellfire anti-tank missile guidance systems to Communist China. As well, a report issued by the State of Florida's Inspector General's office found that YEI had, in fact, over-billed the state of Florida on contracts and that Nee had indeed been an illegal alien.
Feeney, a good friend of Dr. and Mrs. Yang, the owners of YEI --- who have given thousands of dollars in campaign support to the disgraced congressman over the years --- still keeps his main campaign headquarters in the YEI office building in Oviedo, Florida, to this day. Feeney had previously been caught lying about his association with the Yangs.
Feeney's troubles, however, are likely far from over. As a member of the Republican Leadership in the 109th Congress --- he was a deputy whip --- Feeney has yet to detail what he knew about his Florida colleague Rep. Mark Foley's sexual transgressions with minors. After reports had surfaced that the Leadership had been made aware of the concerns about Foley many years ago, Curtis issued a press release during the campaign calling on Feeney to come clean on what he knew about Foley, when he knew it, and what he did about it. Feeney has stayed mum to this day, refusing to give details about his knowledge in the matter.
Feeney, who has claimed Curtis is both "crazy" and "a liar" has refused to take a polygraph test despite having been challenged publicly by Curtis, and others, to do so. For his part, Curtis successfully passed a lie detector test concerning his charges against Feeney and YEI back in early 2005.
Additionally, Curtis has since filed a challenge in Congress to the election of Feeney, claiming a number of irregularities found in the Diebold electronic voting systems used across several counties in Florida's 24th district. Yesterday, the National Election Data Archive issued an analysis [PDF] of precinct data for the election detailing a number of inexplicable discrepancies in the results as reported by the state of Florida. The non-partisan Election Integrity organization has announced that the discrepancies in the numbers are "consistent with a pattern that would be caused by voter disenfranchisement, vote fraud, or innocent miscount."
When the Congressional challenge was filed in the race between Christine Jennings (D) and Vern Buchanan (R) in the FL-13 race --- where the votes of some 18,000 Florida voters failed to register on ES&S touch-screen voting machines in Sarasota, with a reported margin of just 369 votes between the two candidates --- Feeney declared the Constitutional challenge to be "total political dictatorship." His statement was made to the media, however, before it was publicly known that Feeney's election would as well be challenged in the same Congress under the same Federal Contested Elections Act.
Curtis's challenge, and several others originating in the state of Florida, will reportedly be championed in the House by Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ), who has long been an advocate for election reform in the U.S. House. We hope to have more details here at The BRAD BLOG on the Curtis challenge, and other related matters, shortly. Stay tuned...
The Clint Curtis/Tom Feeney/Yang Enterprises Vote-Rigging Scandal series, please see:
- A Quick Summary of the story so far.
- An Index of all the Key Articles & Evidence in the series so far.
- Curtis ran for U.S. Congress against Feeney in 2006.
For more info, see: www.ClintCurtis.com