Brother, Can You Spare a Grand? Abramoff-Tied Lawmaker Passes Hat to Pay Legal Bills

Reportedly under scrutiny by federal prosecutors for his role in a 2003 Scottish golf trip paid for by disgraced former superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, a Florida congressman is starting a fundraising push to help cover his legal bills.

Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., on Wednesday filed papers establishing a legal defense fund, to pay legal expenses "arising from Tom Feeney's ongoing voluntary cooperation with inquiries" stemming from the federal investigation into the Abramoff scandal, Feeney spokeswoman Pepper Pennington told the Blotter on

Feeney's defense fund is being handled by Tallahassee lawyer and longtime Feeney friend Richard Coates, Pennington said, but Feeney's defense is being handled by the high-priced Washington powerhouse firm Patton Boggs.

Feeney is "looking forward to a successful fundraising season," Pennington told, adding that they have an "active fundraising calendar" planned and that the effort was "off to a strong start."

In an e-mailed statement, Pennington said donations had been received from "longtime friends and supporters who have full confidence that Rep. Feeney has acted legally in this matter." She did not say how much the fund had raised to date.

Participants on Abramoff-sponsored junkets have since faced significant legal problems.  Fellow golfer and former White House official David Safavian is in jail, along with Abramoff and former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who also golfed with the one-time GOP power broker-turned government witness; two other former congressional aides who took trips with Abramoff have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with investigators. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, also a guest on Abramoff's golf trips, is reportedly under investigation for his ties to Abramoff.

Abramoff spent roughly $20,000 per guest on the golf trip, according to prosecutors.  Feeney reported the cost to be less than $6,000.  In January, the House Ethics Committee ruled it was wrong for Feeney to accept the trip from Abramoff and ordered him to pay his reported cost to the U.S. Treasury.

Feeney has insisted he had "no relationship" with Abramoff, and the trip was "an expensive lesson."

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