[Updated: Former Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) responds to this article. Ney, convicted for his dealings with Abramoff, including a trip to Scotland, suggests Feeney may have been helped off the hook by friends in high places. See details and Ney's comments in UPDATE at bottom of story.]
Late last week, alleged vote-rigging conspirator and former three-term Congressman Tom Feeney (R-FL) was informed that the Department of Justice was dropping their two year probe into his 2003 lobbyist-paid junket with Jack Abramoff to play golf in Scotland, according to his attorney Robert Luskin (who also happens to be Karl Rove's criminal attorney).
The DoJ's investigation was stymied earlier this year by an appellate court decision disallowing their subpoena of Feeney's statements to the U.S. House Ethics Commission on the basis of Constitutional separation of powers. As we noted last month, the friendly Feeney finding was likely to foul the fed's felony fact-finding against the failed former Florida Congressman.
The Ethics Commission had, themselves, let Feeney off the hook on the last day in which Republicans controlled the panel before Democrats took over in 2007. He would agree to pay just $5,643 for the private plane trip and swanky vacation with rightwing lobbyists, despite court papers declaring the trip to have been worth approximately $20,000...
Prior to Feeney's 2003 trip, currently indicted former Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-TX) enjoyed a similar trip with Abramoff in 2000, and in 2002 it was Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH)'s turn. Ney pleaded guilty to charges related to his dealings with the convicted lobbyist and served 17 month in federal prison.
[Update: Ney has replied in comments, in response to this article. See UPDATE at bottom of story for details.]
"Life's too short to be bitter," Feeney told FLORIDA TODAY earlier this week. "But I guess most people would be very, very bitter."
No, Tom. Most people, having done what you know you did, would be damned relieved to have gotten off the hook as easily as you did. Just ask Delay or Ney. But nicely done, playing the victim there.
Feeney reportedly spent some $270,000 in campaign funds for "legal services" in fighting the case, according to FEC fiings. "He also paid more than $106,000 to a Baltimore-based consulting firm that specializes in e-mail recovery and computer forensics," FT reported, and "In the first six months of this year alone, Feeney spent $118,000 on fees related to the investigation." Money well spent. Though it's unclear if those who donated to his campaign would agree.
The former Congressman lost his seat in 2008 to Democrat Suzanne Kosmas, despite his having, literally, carved the once-conservative 24th Congressional district out for himself when he served as Speaker of the Florida House.
The BRAD BLOG has been closely following Feeney --- who named among Congress' "Most Corrupt" for four years in a row by a non-partisan D.C. ethics watchdog organization --- ever since late 2004 when a then-Republican computer programmer, Clint Curtis, alleged Feeney had asked him to create a vote-rigging software prototype when they both worked at Yang Enterprises Inc. (YEI), an Oviedo, FL software firm. Feeney was their registered lobbyist and general counsel at the time, even as he was concurrently Speaker of Florida's House, and even as the company had millions of dollars in state contracts. Despite Curtis' sworn affidavit, video-taped Congressional testimony, and successful polygraph test on the matter, Feeney has maintained his innocence in the vote-rigging scheme. He has, however, long refused to take a polygraph examination as long-challenged by Curtis who would eventually run against Feeney, unsuccessfully, for the Congressional seat in 2006, in continuing hopes of bringing Feeney's corruption to light.
An award-winning documentary film, Murder, Spies & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story, detailing the entire sordid affair (as well as your humble blogger's effort to investigate and report the story) was released in 2008.
UPDATE: In comments left on this item, Ney himself has responded, in an apparent shot at some of his former colleagues, to wryly note:
The BRAD BLOG has confirmed the comments did, in fact, come from the convicted former Congressman who, having served his time, now hosts a daily radio show in Ohio. Ney's comment about being "on the ticket with the President's Brother a few years back" refers to Feeney's run for Lt. Governor, on Jeb Bush's ticket in Florida's 1994 Gubernatorial race. Bush/Feeney lost that year in a close race, but would go on to win, without Feeney on the ticket, in his second attempt in 1998.
- 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.