Last week, Rep. Bill Owens drew fire for a trip he took in December 2011 to Taiwan with his wife that was paid for by a university in that country. The four-day, all-expenses-paid trip came with a price tag of more than $22,000.
Because a lobbyist facilitated the trip, it may have violated House ethics committee rules. Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh, said Friday that he would reimburse the money.
A spokesman for Owens said today that since taking office in November 2009, the congressman has taken two other trips that were paid for by private groups. Both were cleared by the House ethics committee in advance.
The first, in August 2011 was a trip to Israel funded by the American Israel Education Foundation, with a price tag of $20,336. Owens wife — who accompanied him on the Taiwan trip — also traveled to Israel and her travel costs were also paid for.
Staff-member Sean Magers said the purpose of the trip was “to learn more about US-Israeli relationship. In particular the Middle-East Peace Process. Owens met with both Israeli and Palestinian officials.”
The other trip, in October 2011, took Owens to Ottawa. That trip was paid for by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International trade and came with a price tag of $1,112 for Owens and another $601 for his staff.
According to Magers, the purpose of the Canada trip was “to meet with Canadian officials and discuss job creation, international trade, borer security and other issues that affect the two nations.”
While the Taiwan trip was organized following a suggestion by a New York-based lobbying group called Park Strategies, Magers said no lobbyists were involved in the other trips.