Golf trip? What golf trip?

    The conservative policy group that two Republican congressmen from Ohio and Florida reported as the sponsor of their golf outings to Scotland said it didn’t pay for their excursions with a lobbyist.

    Members of Congress are required to report trips that are paid for by outside groups. They are prohibited from accepting trips or gifts from lobbyists.

    Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, said in an interview Wednesday that he had been misled by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who at the time was a board member for the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank based in Washington.

    Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., sent a letter Wednesday to the House ethics committee, alerting them to the discrepancy in his travel disclosure forms.

    A message seeking comment was left Wednesday with Abramoff’s attorney, Abbe D. Lowell.

    Abramoff and associate Michael Scanlon are being investigated by a federal grand jury in Washington and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for allegedly bilking $66 million from six Indian tribes who hired them to lobby for their casino and other interests.

    Feeney told the ethics committee in his letter about the trip, “My staff completed all required documentation based on the information provided by the trip sponsors, but it appears that in some instances, they were misled.”

    “This is ridiculous. I was told point blank that they paid for the trip,” said Ney, who chairs the House Administration Committee. “Why would we want to make something up? We would not benefit. We are not insane.”

    Ney’s financial disclosure report said the center had paid for his 2002 trip, which included a visit to the famed St. Andrews golf course. Feeney also reported that the center paid for his 2003 trip to Scotland, where he golfed and attended the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual parade of soldiers and bands at the Edinburgh Castle.

    The center’s lawyer, Mackenzie Canter, said the group didn’t sponsor either trip.

    “That is a mistake that somehow occurred in the congressmen’s reporting,” Cantor said. “We don’t know why or how they thought the center was a sponsor … we had nothing to do with it.”

    The center’s statements about the trip, which were first reported by the Los Angeles Times, come as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay faces questions about a golfing trip to Scotland that he took with Abramoff in 2000. The center says it did sponsor that trip.

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    © 2005 The Associated Press