Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Jewish Federation Footing Bill For Daniels' Trip To Israel

The Star does something this morning it seldom does. It probes a bit deeper into the purpose behind Gov. Mitch Daniels' private eight-day trip to Israel. Daniels is making the obligatory trip to the holy land courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Indianapolis, which will include a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The governor's office would first only tell the Star's Mary Beth Schneider that the trip was not for official state business but little else. His press secretary told her it was a "personal trip" and a "vacation." Yet the trip includes his former economic development director, IBJ publisher Mickey Maurer, and includes meetings with Israeli businesses and aerospace companies. Initially, Schneider says the governor's office would only tell her that the trip was not being paid for by taxpayers. After Schneider probed the Jewish Federation of Indianapolis more deeply about the purpose of the trip, she was referred back to Daniels' office.
Initially, the governor's office said only that the trip was not being paid for by taxpayers. The Jewish Federation referred questions about who was paying the tab back to the governor's office.
Pressed on who was footing the bill and whether state ethics laws allow a governor to accept the gift of travel, Anita Samuel, general counsel to Daniels, issued a statement confirming that the federation was paying for the trip and that no ethics conflicts arose.
"This organization does not have a business relationship with the governor's office, and they are not trying to influence any action by the governor," Samuel said. "Therefore, this does not violate any state ethics rules."
Julia Vaughn, policy director of the citizens watchdog group Common Cause Indiana, said questions about who pays for a governor's trip are legitimate.
"He is the governor. Taxpayers of the state have the right to know who is footing the bill for a trip, particularly one overseas," she said. "Transparency is always the best approach."
Maurer downplayed the significance of the trip.
"This is part of a program that's been going on 20 years," he said. "There have been well over 100 people going. This is a pretty routine type of thing."
These organized free trips to Israel for political leaders have been going on for many decades. Let's call them for what they are. Their purpose is to ensure that people in America who are in a position of power understand why America should provide foreign aid to Israel and side with the nation on disputes within the region with its Arab neighbors. Whether that's a sinister motive is in the eyes of the beholder. Playing hide the ball with a reporter probably doesn't lend itself to disabusing people inclined towards a more sinister notion.

If this is Daniels' first trip to Israel, I would be quite surprised given his former jobs working for Sen. Lugar and the Reagan and Bush White Houses. You can bet Sen. Lugar has taken more than one of these trips to Israel given the high profile role he has played in foreign affairs and how supportive Maurer is of Lugar politically. I believe U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, one of two Muslims in Congress, was ushered off to Israel on one of these trips a short time after he took office. Similar trips were organized when I worked for the legislature in Illinois. I still remember my state representative, a downstate farmer/banker, taking one of these trips a short time after he was elected to office. He had no ambitions beyond being a state lawmaker and found it a bit humorous that anyone cared what he thought about American foreign policy views towards Israel, particularly since he could count on his hand the number of Jews who lived in his district. He had never been to Israel. He said, "Hell, why not?" He pretty much confirmed after he returned that its purpose was indoctrination.

Schneider's story mentions that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is just finishing up a trip to Israel that similarly included a meeting with Netanyahu and the Western Wall. Both Daniels and Christie have been mentioned as potential vice presidential running mates after the two opted against making a run for the Republican presidential nomination this year. Daniels has told reporters that he's not interested in running on a national ticket this year. That probably reflects his current thinking, but I'm not sure he couldn't be convinced to change his mind. I tend to agree with the view Larry Sabato shared with Schneider. "While he wasn't sure whether this would increase speculation about Daniels' political future, Sabato said that 'you have to laugh' at the idea that this is just a vacation for either him or Christie.," Schneider writes. "I've been to Israel a few times, too," Sabato said. "The prime minister's never offered to meet with me."


Anonymous said...

When I was on the Washington Township School Board, they paid for Superintendent Mervilde's trip to Israel. His trip days were not charged as personal or vacation days.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I should have disclosed that I accepted a free trip to a Chicago White Sox game from the Jewish Federation of Illinois' executive director once when I worked as a legislative staffer along with another staff member. I'm not even a White Sox fan, but he was a really nice guy and the trip was enjoyable. We never discussed Israel, mostly Illinois politics of which there was always plenty to discuss.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Indiana is in so much trouble! Kurt Haskell has notified us that America is dead; and Alex Jones explains on his show aired Mon. why he is concluding that it is the end of humanity.

Cato said...

Is the Jewish Federation registered as a foreign lobby?

I should be careful. Kennedy was whacked not long after moving to get the AIPAC parent, the American Zionist Council, registered as a foreign lobby.

Now, not only is AIPAC not a foreign lobby, it gets a U.S. tax exemption.

Daniels' trip is straight-up AIPAC neocon leverage on our politicians to serve another country before ours.

Marycatherine Barton said...

P.S. In the meantime, Kurt is petitioning to run for Congress, 7th District, Michigan.