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, freshmen Republicans head off on the same trip, paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, which Frankel in a news release described 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.