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Link up with Jack Abramoff on Bob Ney's Virtual Golf Junket

Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 14, 2006:
Ever wonder what it was it was like to be a pampered VIP on one of rogue lobbyist Jack Abramoff's swanky junkets? An email that the federal government released on Feb. 10 listed a tentative travel itinerary for the August 2002 golf trip to Scotland that Abramoff took with GOP Rep. Bob Ney, former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed and others.

The July 23, 2002 email from Abramoff said the group was scheduled to leave Baltimore Washington International airport on Saturday, Aug 3, 2002, on a Gulfstream jet run by New World Aviation.

After arriving in Edinburgh in on Sunday, Aug. 4, they were slated to check into the Old Course Hotel and scheduled to tee-off at Kingsbarns links at 4 PM. The day was to conclude with dinner at the hotel's Road Hole Grill.

The group was scheduled to leave the hotel at 9 AM on Monday, Aug. 5 for an 11 AM tee-off at Carnoustie links. After dinner at an unspecified Edinburgh venue, possibly with the Conservative Party, Abramoff's crew was to attend a "Military Tattoo" performance at Edinburgh Castle.

Tuesday, August 6, was to be spent doing nothing but golf. After checking out of the Old Course Hotel, they scheduled a warm-up trip to a driving range, before a 10:20 tee-off at St. Andrews' Old Course golf course. Lunch was to be at the hotel's Clubhouse restaurant.

At 3:30 PM, the group was slated to tee-off at St. Andrews' Jubilee golf course, before driving to the Gleagles Hotel and Golf Resort by luxury coach where they checked in for the night.

Wednesday, August 7 was also devoted exclusively to golf, according to the group's schedule. At 10:20, they were to tee-off at the resort's Championship Course. At 4:20, they were supposed to tee off at the King's Course before eating dinner at the hotel.

On Thursday, August 8, the group was to check out of that hotel and return to St. Andrews to play a morning round at either Old Course or Crail, depending on availability. In the afternoon, the group planned to golf either at Old Course, or at Elie.

That night, the group was scheduled to fly to London and check into the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel. Dinner was to be from Yo, a sushi restaurant chain that offered delivery to the hotel.

In London, the trip became more serious. The schedule indicates the group was to meet on August 9 with Alexander Koulakovsky, a top executive at the Russian energy firm NaftaSib, who met with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on a prior congressional trip organized by Abramoff.

On August 10, a "to be confirmed" meeting was scheduled with Patrick Spiteri, whom foreign publications identify as an attorney from the Mediterranean island of Malta who specializes in tax havens. Reports in Malta Today describe Spiteri as having "far reaching ties into the world of money laundering and international stock fraud." The next day, the group was to leave London for Baltimore.

The trip's $166,634 cost was paid for by a sham charity of Abramoff's called the Capital Athletic Foundation. Abramoff declined comment on the trip through his attorney's spokeswoman.

Ney's spokesman, Brian Walsh, said Ney didn't get a copy of the scheduling email that Abramoff sent former General Services Administration official David Safavian, and can't comment on its contents. Safavian is fighting criminal charges for allegedly lying to the federal government about his contacts with Abramoff. The scheduling email was submitted as evidence in his case.

"As part of his own trip, the Congressman met with people associated with the Scottish Parliament, and attended a military tattoo to meet U.S. servicemen," Walsh said. "He did not meet with, and is not familiar with, the two individuals listed on the itinerary allegedly sent to Mr. Safavian."

Walsh said Ney is "more than willing to review this trip with the appropriate investigative bodies line by line and is confident that he acted in accordance with all House rules."