The Aug. 13-21, 2011 event in Israel was attended by South Carolina’s Tim Scott. He did not partake in these separate festivities that evening, though, according to the communications director at Scott’s D.C. office.
While it was declared to be an “Educational Seminar in Israel,” many took the event to stereotypical convention debauchery, and to such a degree that the FBI investigated it.
Out of approximately 60 attendees, over 20 of them – members of congress, their staff and at least one spouse and one of their children – are reported to have jumped in the Galilee after a night of celebration that some acknowledge included heavy drinking. Only 13 have been identified by name, however.
Of the congresspersons named, all are freshman representatives: Jeff Denham, Michael Grimm, Ben Quayle, Tom Reed (accompanied in the water by his wife), Steve Southerland (with his daughter) and Kevin Yoder.
It was Yoder who admitted to removing all of his clothing before the group. “(R)egrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit,” he stated in written response to POLITICO.
Also identified were staff persons of majority leader Rep. Eric Cantor (Steve Stombres, Laena Fallon and Kristi Way) and majority whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Laena Fallon and Emily Murray).
“(Scott) was not at the Sea of Galilee,” Sean Smith from the congressman’s D.C. office said today in email, but did attend the week-long seminar “to show his support for a strong US-Israel relationship.”
In September, Scott submitted a post-travel disclosure form to the House Clerk detailing the $21,268.04 cost of the trip, which was paid for by AIEF. Half of the amount covered the costs for Scott’s nephew, who accompanied him.
About three weeks after the “Educational Seminar in Israel,” Scott spoke about his attendance in a sermon to the local Seacoast Church. He said that, while attending, he was approached by a Jewish Israeli who told him that U.S. capitalism was dependent on Christianity for its success.
Thirty-two Republicans from the House were invited to attend the week-long AIEF event, and most were allowed to bring a guest; other GOP representatives were invited to come to a similar AIEF conference the following week, and Democrats were eligible to attend the previous week.
A total of 81 representatives (55 Republicans and 26 Democrats), not counting their staff or other guests, attended the three seminars.
Rep. Jeff Duncan was the only other South Carolina congressman invited.
The total transportation costs of AIEF’s conferences last year (approximately $1.5 million) was a record-high for congressional travel.
AIEF is a non-profit charitable organization openly affiliated with the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). Shortly after last year’s trip in question, claims were made against AIEF for it accepting tax-deductible contributions, then forwarding that money to AIPAC.
Earlier this year, Scott was required to refund some of the money he received related to attending another political organization’s conference, and because he brought one-too-many guests with him.