The Hill fills us in:
A handful of nonprofit groups that sponsor travel for members of Congress are pushing back against recent proposals to ban privately funded trips, arguing that their activities are far different from the golfing and exotic foreign junkets that have been the centerpiece of recent lobbying scandals.
Such groups as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities have been quietly raising the issue with sympathetic members of Congress, hoping to convince lawmakers that their trips are valuable educational experiences and have not been abused by lawmakers or lobbyists.
AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, and its associated American Israel Education Foundation have sponsored 161 trips for members of Congress since 2000, according to politicalmoneyline.com, including nearly a hundred to Israel itself.
The Hill also tells us that a large part of the House Republican Conference opposes the ban on privately funded travel. "Their trips are substantive, they say, and aren’t designed merely to create an opportunity for their lobbyists to enjoy some face time with lawmakers," the Hill reports. And that sells about as well as a teen-ager trying to convince his parents that a skip day from school was actually a school-sponsored field trip.
What's even more amusing is to hear those religious folks trying to explain how they're different from all the other special interest groups. “It’s a very different situation for nonprofits like ours than for big K Street firms. There has to be some legitimate way to distinguish between the two,” said Joseph Grieboski, president of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. Grieboski led a group of more than 30 nonprofit religious and human-rights groups, including AIPAC, in writing to congressional leaders last month."
Let's face it folks, a special interest is a special interest whether you claim the blessings of God, Allah or anyone else to whom you pray for moral and spiritual guidance. If you're trying to influence our policy-makers to take a course of action, you should be treated the same as everyone else.