Former Chief of Staff Jason Roe 'Abruptly Resigns' From Romney Campaign as Abramoff Said to be 'Talking so Much He Doesn't Have Time to Eat'
Heat Continues to Build as Everyone Starts Singing in the FBI Investigation of Corrupt Florida Congressman...
By Brad Friedman on 4/25/2007, 12:36pm PT  

Signs indicate things are getting worse, and quickly, for one of Congress' most corrupt members, Rep. Tom Feeney, a once-powerful Florida Republican whose extensive career of documented lies, political favors, and routine partisan smear-mongering The BRAD BLOG has covered in great detail over the last two and a half years.

Yesterday, Feeney was fingered as "Representative #3" in recent court filings related to the guilty plea of Republican Congressional Aide Mark Zachares, who admitted receiving some $40,000 in cash and gifts from Jack Abramoff. A day earlier, it was revealed that the FBI had recently interviewed Feeney and requested documents related to his 2003 golf junket to St. Andrews, Scotland with Zachares and the disgraced GOP lobbyist.

Today, court documents reveal that the cost of the 2003 trip was closer to $20,000 per person instead of the $5,643 Feeney claimed when he "paid back" that amount in January of this year, after the House Ethics Committee found him to be in violation of House Rules prohibiting lobbyist-paid travel.

Further news reports indicate much more trouble may be ahead for the beleaguered Congressman, as Abramoff is said to be chattering away to federal investigators --- "so much he doesn't have time to eat," according to one news report --- in hopes of reducing a prison sentence he's currently facing in relation to conspiracy fraud charges to which he's already plead guilty in Florida.

But if that weren't indication enough that Feeney may be in big trouble, it's also now being reported this morning that his former Chief of Staff, Jason Roe --- who, along with his wife, Patricia, has also been the target of corruption allegations --- abruptly resigned from his new position as Deputy Campaign Manager for Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Amusingly, the reason he cited for the resignation was "familial obligations."

Those "familial obligations" might include the fact that Patricia reportedly received some $50,000 from the Feeney campaign for fundraising duties, before becoming Chief of Staff for Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) --- whose wife's office was raided last week by Federal investigators leading to his resignation this week from all Congressional Committees.

Further, in what TMP's Josh Marshall aptly described last night as "a classic scandal harmonic convergence," the case against Renzi, which included federal wiretaps prior to last year's November election, also has direct implications in the the U.S. Attorney Purge scandal.

And all of the "familial" wives are involved as well.

Following all of this? You may need to take notes. We'll try to make it easy for you...

The St. Petersburg Times reports today that court filings indicate the cost of the trip to St. Andrews was purposely concealed and then low-balled in official disclosure filings:

Zachares had said the trip was paid for by a conservative think tank, the National Center for Public Policy Research, that it had cost $5,643 and that the purpose was fact finding. All three were lies, according to the documents.

Feeney, 48, an Orlando-area Republican who has been contacted by the FBI as part of the Abramoff investigation, reported precisely the same details in his travel report on the Scotland trip.

Feeney has insisted he didn't know Abramoff covered the cost of the trip, which is a violation of House rules.

In the years prior to Feeney's trip to St. Andrews with Abramoff, Congressmen Bob Ney (R-OH) and Tom DeLay (R-TX) had gone on similar trips with the once-powerful, now-imprisoned GOP lobbyist. Ney has plead guilty to bribery charges in the matter and is serving time in federal prison while DeLay is under indictment in another matter, and still reportedly under investigation in the Abramoff matter. Only Feeney had escaped public and media scrutiny for his trip, as The BRAD BLOG reported in a near-vacuum almost a year ago.

Now that the matter is finally coming to media attention, Feeney's spokesperson, Pepper Pennington (yes, that's really her name), gave an amusing quote to the Times in refusing to give further comment, other than to say, "Rep. Feeney is anxious to discuss this matter at the appropriate time."

We're sure he is.

But he may wish to do so sooner, rather than later, as virtually everyone else seems to be desperately trying to reduce their prison sentences right now. McClatchy's Greg Gordon is reporting today (via TPMMuckraker's coverage of the latest Feeney news) that:

"[Abramoff is] talking so much he doesn't have time to eat," one lawyer involved in the matter quipped, insisting upon anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. "Everybody who had business dealings with the guy should be nervous."
...
Feeney is among those who might be nervous over the ex-lobbyist's chatter, said the knowledgeable lawyer.

And to make matters worse, The Hill coverage today makes the stakes for Zachares' cooperation crystal clear:

Zachares faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a $250,000 fine, but the judge said she would recommend a sentence of 18 to 24 months if he provides "substantial assistance" to prosecutors in the broader Abramoff investigation.

He is the 11th person to plead guilty in the wide-ranging investigation into Abramoff’s conspiracy to bribe public officials.

The judge also said that the DoJ had decided not to prosecute Zachares’s wife, Cynthia, after she agreed in a Feb. 23 interview to cooperate fully with authorities."

St. Petersburg Times posts the charges, the basis for Zachares' plea, and his plea agreement [all in PDF format].

Zachares and wife cooperating, Abramoff already singing, Renzi nearing resignation from Congress as he and his wife may now face charges, Roe and his wife now newly under the gun...We might well suggest that Feeney ought to be more than just "nervous" at this point.

UPDATE FROM DES 3:24pm PT: The specific wording from court documents suggests Feeney's understatement wasn't a mistake, but rather collusion, according to AP [emphasis added]:

Zachares "falsely reported the cost of transportation, lodging and meals as only $5,643, a figure coordinated with Abramoff to be substantially identical as the figures other attendees, including Representative #3, would report," according to a statement of facts which Zachares signed March 14. "Representative #3" is a reference to Feeney.

The AP story quoted above has now been archived. Here is WaPo coverage of the same story.

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.
- Curtis eventually ended up running for U.S. Congress against Feeney in 2006.
For more info, see: www.ClintCurtis.com