March 09, 2005
He's contagious!

Look out! Tom DeLay's scandaliciousness is spreading!

A group of congressional figures has joined House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) under an ethics cloud stemming from foreign golf junkets arranged by a lobbyist facing influence-peddling investigations.

DeLay landed in trouble last month over a 2000 trip to Scotland with the lobbyist. But two other congressmen and three House aides also played St. Andrews on separate junkets with the lobbyist that may have violated House rules, records show.

And, like the Texas Republican, all omitted disclosing the key role of beleaguered lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He privately raised tens of thousands of dollars for private jets and boasted of setting up golf junkets, according to documents, congressional testimony and interviews.

Is there a vaccination for this? And if so will we have to import more from Canada because we underestimated the demand?

One of Abramoff's golf guests was Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), chairman of the little-known but powerful House Administration Committee. He said in congressional filings that his trip on a chartered jet in 2002 was sponsored and paid for by an obscure conservative think tank, the National Center for Public Policy Research.

But the center's president told the Los Angeles Times that it "did not sponsor, nor did we pay" for Ney's travels.

The same nonprofit organization also was listed by then-freshman Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) after he flew to Scotland with the lobbyist in August 2003. But in response to inquiries by The Times, the center said it did not provide "a single dime" for the Feeney junket.

Members of Congress routinely travel as guests of educational and policy groups, but they cannot accept trips or gifts from lobbyists.

The think tank's blunt contradictions of the congressmen's reports raise questions about whether Ney and Feeney violated House rules and filed false documents to disguise gifts from a lobbyist.

It is the latest twist in a mounting ethics scandal surrounding one of Washington's most prominent lobbyists.

Ney and Feeney, through spokesmen, blamed others for any filing errors.

"It was the congressman's understanding that this trip was permissible under House rules," said Brian J. Walsh, communications director for Ney. He said it was "based on representations" by Abramoff that the National Center sponsored their travel.

Feeney's chief of staff expressed surprise. "You are the first to inform me of the information being incorrect," said Jason Roe.

He said any false information would be "the result of someone misleading" the congressman, "not any nefarious activity on his part."

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new poster boy for the Responsibility Era.

And to think I was worried that everyone would forget about the DeLay scandals by the time the 2006 elections rolled around. I'll never underestimate you again, Tom.

Oh, and be sure to note this. Whether he realizes it or not, DeLay is heading down the Newt Gingrich Highway.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 09, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack