Friday, April 24, 2015

Stutzman On Controversial Congressional Trip With Schock Paid For By Saudi Government

Disgraced former Illinois U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R) was forced to resign his seat in Congress after questions swirled about questionable campaign and travel spending from his congressional allowance. A federal grand jury convened by federal prosecutors in Springfield has been sending out subpoenas and calling former Schock congressional staffers before the grand jury to testify. The Chicago Tribune is raising new concerns about a trip Schock took to Saudi Arabia in 2011 on which he was accompanied by Indiana's U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R), who has been mulling over a bid for Dan Coats' Senate seat in 2016. According to The Tribune, the Saudi government paid for the trip, although Schock did not disclose that fact in his official filings with the House, as well as the costs for two prominent businessmen in his district who were large donors to Schock's campaign committee.

According to The Tribune, Peoria automobile dealer Jeff Green, who also owns a private plane on which he frequently flew Schock, accompanied Schock on the official trip, as did Adam Vitale, the owner of a Galesburg beer distributorship. The Tribune describes the presence of the two campaign donors with Schock on the trip as unusual. The Saudi governmental also picked up the tab for their expenses, although Vitale said he paid for his own flight expense. Green refused to answers The Tribune's questions about the trip. Schock failed to disclose the trip on his financial disclosure form, which is a potential violation of the Ethics in Government Act. Rep. Stutzman disclosed on his 2011 financial disclosure form that the Embassy of Saudi Arabia financed the cost of his 10-day trip to Riyadh on March 17, 2011 through March 27, 2011. He also disclosed a second, 8-day trip to Israel on August 13, 2011 through August 21 2011, which was financed by the American Israel Education Foundation. From The Tribune story:
. . . The other lawmakers on the trip to Saudi Arabia said in disclosures that the Embassy of Saudi Arabia paid their way. Both Reps. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming said the trip was March 17-27, 2011.
Aides to Stutzman and Lummis, both Republicans, declined to answer questions about the trip. So did Saudi Arabia's embassy in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Schock's top aide, who also was on the journey, also refused to address the trip.
Schock's chief of staff at the time, Steven Shearer of Peoria, appeared with the former congressman in Saudi Arabia in a photo in the Arab News on March 26, 2011. Shearer put the trip on his disclosure but on different dates: May 18-27, 2011.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities, in a Web post, said Schock and the other lawmakers were on an "official visit" accompanied by a delegation of U.S. businessmen, none identified by name.
Members of the U.S. delegation met with princes including Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the post said, and visited the Saudi national museum and historical sites.
Stutzman later told The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind., that the trip was arranged and paid for by the Saudi tourism and antiquities commission. He said the group spoke with Saudi officials about counterterrorism and trade, noting that the country was in the midst of a construction boom and an attractive market for Indiana manufacturers.
Two sources said Green talked freely about the Saudi trip upon his return and posted travel photos on Facebook, taking them down after Schock fell under scrutiny this year.
One source said he saw Green flip through 40 or 50 travel photos on his phone showing images of camel rides, cities and palaces.
Arab News quoted Schock during the trip as saying people in the U.S. were interested in that country's lack of democracy, its ban on women driving and the requirement that women wear abayas.
"We have a clearer vision now that we have visited Saudi Arabia," he added. "What is applicable in America does not necessarily has (sic) to be true here also."
It's curious that the purpose of this congressional trip was to discuss counter-terrorism among other things given that one of Saudi princes with whom the delegation met has been tied to the financing of the 9/11 hijackers from Saudi Arabia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

9/11 is an inside job. Follow the number of Saudi's coming to IUPUI and other universities around the country during the 80's and more. Follow the money Gary.