Unsealed appellate court decision explains delay in corruption probe of Tom Feeney, but will indictments ever come?...
By Brad Friedman on 7/17/2009, 2:30pm PT  

So whatever happened to that expected indictment of former Congressman Tom Feeney (R-FL) and alleged vote-rigging conspirator for, among other things, his 2003 Abramoff-funded junket to play golf in St. Andrews, Scotland?

The other two Congressman who took the trips with the disgraced, imprisoned Republican uber-lobbyist have been held, at least, partially to account (Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) spent time in jail, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is still facing related indictments in Texas). Feeney ran a sad "apology" commercial --- five years later --- during his unsuccessful re-election bid in 2008, but since then has so-far escaped real accountability for that, and the many other allegations of corruption that helped see him listed as among Congress' "Most Corrupt" for four years running.

So what happened to Feeney's indictment? A D.C. Court of Appeals decision from February (as we reported at the time, when we also noted Feeney is now being repped by Karl Rove's criminal attorney) was finally unsealed last week likely explaining the answer --- at least for the delay of such an indictment...

Last week, the unsealed decision [PDF] revealed that they had overturned a lower court who had previously rejected Feeney's position that statements and documents he gave to a House Ethics Committee panel looking at the matter years ago, could not be used against the former Congressman by federal prosecutors under the Constitution's separation-of-powers mandates.

Investigators had subpoenaed some of those documents to use in their case against Feeney, whose attorneys had objected on his behalf.

Citing sections of the Constitution's "speech or debate" clause, the decision finds that Congressional speech and debate "shall not be questioned in any other place." Thus, the Executive Branch's prosecutors are now limited from obtaining that material.

Feeney had brought the original matter to the House Ethics Committee himself (after the matter had become public), and the then-friendly committee, under the then Republican-led House, "exonerated" him on their last day before the Democrats took over in 2007, after he agreed to write a personal check for $5,643 to cover his supposed part of the $160,000 private plane junket.

Eight people were on the trip, which would put the truer cost at $20,000 a piece, but hey, these were Republicans in charge, so following ethics and fiscal responsibility and Rule of Law and stuff, doesn't actually come in to play here.

In the guilty plea of former Republican House staffer Mark Zachares, also on the same trip to Scotland, it had been revealed that he had "falsely reported" on travel disclosure forms that the cost of $5,463 was a low-ball "coordinated with Abramoff to be substantially identical as the figures other attendees, including Representative #3 [later revealed to be Feeney], would report."

Unheard No More! offers an excellent analysis of the little-discussed court finding, along with a detailed background on Feeney's years of alleged corruption, self-enrichment and swell free vacations!

Essentially, turning material and statements over to the House Ethics Committee, who generally issue a slap on the wrist, at best, for their lawmaker friends, may now well serve to keep such material out of the hands of federal investigators entirely. Feeney's move to bring himself to the Ethics Committee may have been one of the first smart things he'd done in years of utter stupidity and self-defeating scandal.

Amusingly (if predictably) Feeney used the opportunity of the D.C. court's unsealed finding to mislead the public again, saying in a statement: "I have said all along that I engaged in no wrongdoing in connection with my trip to Scotland while a member of Congress...I hope that the court's decision will now bring this matter to a close."

(See his campaign video "apology", from last year, at right. More details on it here.)

Of course, the court's decision found only that federal investigators couldn't use that particular evidence against him --- it made no determination on his "wrongdoing". As a matter of fact, the opinion doesn't even mention him by name.

Hopefully, there remains ample evidence to use against the dirty former Congressman, including direct testimony from Jack Abramoff himself who is supposedly singing all that he can, in exchange for softer treatment, sentencing from the Feds. So, hopefully, an indictment will still some day come against Feeney, who deserves it as much as any member of the House ever has, as far as we can tell.

Unmentioned in all of this, of course, are the serious allegations of conspiracy to commit election fraud in Florida, as testified to by former Republican computer programmer Clint Curtis who, as The BRAD BLOG originally broke in 2004, has charged --- via affidavit, sworn video-taped testimony to a Congressional panel, and under polygraph test --- that Feeney asked him to create touch-screen vote-rigging software when both men worked at an Oviedo, FL computer firm in 2000. At the time, in addition to being Florida's House Speaker, Feeney was also the company's general counsel and registered lobbyist...even as the same company had a number of multi-million dollar state contracts. See links below for more details on that aspect of the corrupt Tom Feeney.

For more info on The BRAD BLOG's continuing investigative series on 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.
- In late 2008 a documentary film, Murder, Spies & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story was released. More info on the remarkable film here
- Exclusive DVD versions of the film, as signed by Brad Friedman and filmmaker Patty Sharaf, are available here as BRAD BLOG premiums.
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