Owens spokesman: private groups also funded trips to Canada, Israel

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.

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5 Comments on “Owens spokesman: private groups also funded trips to Canada, Israel”

  1. Mayflower says:

    The AIEF trip to Israel is pro forma for members of Congress. In the summer of 2011, 81 members of Congress — with spouses and staff — traveled to Israel, all on the dime of this Israeli lobbying organization. These treks take place every two years with the goal of “educating” every member of Congress during his/her term in office.

    The practice deserves intense scrutiny but — in the meantime — Congressman Owens should not be singled out for this travel. It would be very difficult to find an American politician who has NOT made “the trip.”

    It is even more difficult to find an American politician willing to criticize the practice. The consequences of objecting are costly.

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  2. JDM says:

    Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh, said Friday that he would reimburse the money…… now that he got caught.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

  3. Pete Klein says:

    This story was tempest in the teapot in the first place and has become less than a grain of sand on the beach as time rolls on.
    Why no story on the railroad to Newcomb? Far more important than the above.

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  4. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    As Mayflower pointed out, the trip to Israel is the real story here. Not because Owen’s took the trip, but that it’s a trip taken by a VERY large number of Congressional members, their spouses, and much of their staffs. What do you think the Israeli lobbyists are asking for in return for these mini vacations? Ever wonder why Israel is the biggest benefactor of US arms, technology, and direct financial aid? Why the Israeli lobby is so powerful in Washington?

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  5. Mike Flynn says:

    Rep. Bill Owens is Working to Create Good Paying Jobs in NNY:

    I just want a Congressman to stay in office, like our own Rep. Bill Owens, who has an idea about how jobs are created. I’ve talked until I’m blue in the face with the Mayor of Watertown on Hotline about how a good politician can act as a facilitator to get companies to come to our area. Bill Owens is doing just that here. What I get from the Mayor or his cohorts is -“Gov’t doesn’t create jobs, well that’s obviously a lie, because leadership can attract companies to our district.

    I’m certainly not voting for Matt Doheny who I consider the downsizing King of NNY and some one that has one idea on his mind “Take the money and run, not creating a climate for companies to come here. What companies has he spoken with lately about coming to NNY and open a factory to employ NNY people at good salaries? Bill Owens made the effort and I give him credit for making the pitch to an overseas Semi Conductor company in Taiwan.

    Mike Flynn ‘Middle Class Mike”

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