Ante Up

Posted June 22, 2007 at 6:34pm

He says he’s not a target of federal prosecutors, but Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) has nonetheless opened a legal defense fund. [IMGCAP(1)]

The Florida Republican filed papers on June 20 to form the “Tom Feeney Legal Expense Trust” along with Richard Coates, a Florida election lawyer who was named as the fund’s trustee.

Pepper Pennington, a spokeswoman for the Congressman, said Feeney established the fund to avoid using campaign cash to defray expenses associated with his “ongoing voluntary cooperation with inquiries into lobbying activities.”

That is, the federal probe into disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Justice Department has questioned Feeney about a 2003 golfing trip to Scotland that the House ethics committee later determined was improper. Feeney paid Patton Boggs $23,000 during the first quarter of 2007 to cover legal expenses associated with questions surrounding the trip, and the committee instructed him to reimburse the Treasury $5,643 in January.

Pennington said the legal defense fund would “permit the Congressman to use all campaign contributions to run a strong and successful re-election campaign.”

No word yet on the timing of the first event for interested donors.

Capital Concerns. Two bills granting the District of Columbia greater control over its budgetary and legislative matters passed a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee by voice vote last week.

The measures — titled the District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act and the District of Columbia Legislative Autonomy Act — now head to the full committee.

Introduced by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the bills are designed to ease the Congressional restrictions placed on D.C. when the city first achieved home rule in the 1970s.

The budget bill seeks to end Congressional oversight of the D.C. budget, while the legislative bill would remove the Congressional review period — which lasts 30 days for civil laws and 60 days for criminal — for bills approved by city government.

— Rachel Van Dongen and Elizabeth Brotherton