Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida lawmakers join trip to Israel that raises questions of influence

Democratic U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, Lois Frankel and Joe Garcia of Florida are in Israel for the week along with more than 30 other Democratic House members — trips paid for by an arm of a powerful lobbying group. Next week, freshmen Republicans head off on the same trip, paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation.

Times files

Democratic U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, Lois Frankel and Joe Garcia of Florida are in Israel for the week along with more than 30 other Democratic House members — trips paid for by an arm of a powerful lobbying group. Next week, freshmen Republicans head off on the same trip, paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation.

WASHINGTON — Democratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, Patrick Murphy and Joe Garcia of Florida are in Israel for the week along with more than 30 other Democratic House members — trips paid for by an arm of a powerful lobbying group.

Next week, freshman Republicans head off on the same trip, paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, which Frankel described in a news release as an "independent, nonprofit charitable organization."

It is, in fact, an offshoot of the lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which gets around restrictions on privately paid travel by using the educational arm, an arrangement government watchdogs have criticized. One of the big AIEF boosters: billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who poured millions into campaigns to defeat President Barack Obama last year.

In 2012, Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., caused a scandal after it was revealed the FBI had investigated him skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee during a trip the year before. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, jumped into the water with his daughter, but they were clothed.

Murphy and Frankel disclosed that they were going, with Garcia doing so Wednesday morning. But AIPAC refused to provide the full list of lawmakers who made the trip, presumably along with family members. An AIPAC spokesman referred questions to the office of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. A spokeswoman for the Maryland lawmaker also would not provide names and referred a reporter back to AIPAC.

Six years ago, the House banned groups from paying for extended trips as part of the fallout from the scandal over lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But a loophole allowed educational foundations to pick up the tab. The Israel trips are estimated at $10,000 per person.

"Members of Congress feel indebted to someone who provides them with a week's long vacation. It's lobbying and it's more effective than direct lobbying on Capitol Hill," said Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen, who helped draft the 2007 laws. He said the loophole has been steadily abused and privately-paid travel is back to pre-reform levels.

"This is not what lobbying should be about," Holman said. "It should be about providing information and expertise so lawmakers can make better decisions, not trying to buy their favors with gifts and travel junkets."

Frankel said the delegation will meet with key leaders — both Israelis and Palestinians — to gain insight on issues of security, diplomacy, defense cooperation and more.

Florida lawmakers join trip to Israel that raises questions of influence 08/07/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 11:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  2. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick Friday night in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case

    Crime

    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.
  5. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101