News & Election Videos

September 22, 2008

Feeney apologizes for Abramoff ties in ad

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) is apologizing for his past involvement with jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff in an unconventional campaign advertisement – a move dictated by his own political vulnerabilities.

In the ad, he apologizes directly into the camera for his participation in a 2003 golfing trip to Scotland paid for by Abramoff, calling it a “rookie mistake.” The trip violated House ethics rules, which prohibit lawmakers from traveling at lobbyists’ expense.

(Of course, Feeney had previously been a politically-savvy veteran of Florida politics, serving as the Florida Speaker of the House in the two years before he was elected to Congress.)

“I did everything I could to make it right. I reported it to the Ethics Committee, and I paid the money back,” Feeney says in the ad. “I embarrassed myself, and embarrassed you, and for that I am very sorry… I approved this message because public service is about being honest even when you make a mistake.”

The decision to air the apology comes after his Democratic opponent, Suzanne Kosmas, released a poll showing her trailing Feeney by just one point, 43 to 42 percent. Kosmas also has more money in her campaign account than Feeney, making his decision to expend valuable resources to air an apology ad all the more significant.

The ad is an expensive buy, scheduled to air on all the Orlando-area broadcast affiliates and on cable television as well for the next ten days.

“All the Kosmas campaign is left with this five-year-old story to run with and we thought we’d be pro-active and take it on head first,” said Feeney spokeswoman Pepper Pennington.

But by apologizing, Feeney guarantees his past connections to Abramoff will dominate the news in the near term, and allow Democrats to continue scrutinizing the five-year-old trip.

“Tom Feeney’s desperate attempt with his so-called apology raises a lot more questions than it answers," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Kyra Jennings. "Feeney has yet to come clean about his association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff or his pattern of pay-to-play tactics throughout his entire political career.”