“When Congressman Yoder disrobed, that was inappropriate and it ceased the activity immediately,”Ai??saidAi??freshman Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) about his participation in the now-infamous Republican “skinny dipping” trip toAi??Israel. “And we recognize that, donai??i??t condone it. It was inappropriate.”
Politico today has shocking details about behavior on the trip that was far more inappropriate.
The paper reveals that Rob Bassin, the political director of the powerful lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), spent hundreds of dollars wining and dining the lawmakers in Tiberias, an “ancient city on the Sea of Galilee“:
After several hours of drinking, Rob Bassin, AIPACai??i??s national political director, paid the tab for the entire evening, which included several hundred dollars for drinks, in addition to the earlier meal. The GOP group racked up a tab of $340 to $500 on booze, ranging from vodka to wine, sources familiar with the trip said.
Politico goes on to note that “Steve Stombres, Cantorai??i??s chief of staff, objected, concerned about ethics rules that prohibited the organization from paying for anything more than dinner. Stombresai??i??s concern was so sharp that he spent the next few days collecting money from lawmakers to pay back” Bassin’s organization.
It then notes that House ethics rules “allow ‘reasonable expenses’ for food and lodging but do not cover ‘entertainment or recreational activities,’ such as late-night drinks.” This means that the Republican congressmen on the trip and AIPAC’s nonprofit arm that hosted the trip, the American Israel Education Fund (AIEF), may have violated ethics rules.
One other new detail has emerged from the Politico report. Republican mega-donor and casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson accompanied the Members of Congress for part of their trip (but he apparently did not make the trip to the Galilee). Adelson-affiliated charities previously have given at least $1.2 million to AIEF — and one thing Politico did not note is that AIEF in return has paid a travel company that Adelson owns for the use of private jets for lawmakers.
What Reed has yet to condemn as inappropriate is taking an expensive trip to a foreign country paid for entirely by a nonprofit set up by a powerful lobbying group. A trip, that, we now know, may have included violations of House Ethics rules. Will the congressman admit that that was inappropriate?