Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder Skinny Dips In Sea Of Galilee -- On Israel Education Foundation?s Dime

 @LauraMatt
on August 20 2012 11:48 AM

When Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder, the 36-year-old representative for the state's 3rd congressional district, skinny dipped in the Sea of Galilee in August of last ear, it was during a million-dollar trip paid for by the American Israel Educational Foundation, or AIEF.

AIEF is a charitable organization with ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobby group. AIEF offers grants for educational programs, materials and conferences and seminars for "members of Congress and other influentials."

On its website the foundation stated AIEF-sponsored trips "help educate political leaders and influentials about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship through firsthand experiences in Israel, briefings by experts on Middle East affairs, and meetings with Israeli political elite."

Approximately 80 House members (about a fifth of the chamber) reportedly spent a week in Israel that month. And, the trip cost the AIEF record amounts,accordimg to data provided by Legistorm, a transparency database.

Last September, Legistorm said that nearly $1.5 million had been spent up to that point in 2011 by AIEF on congressional travel, mainly on Congress members' trips to Israel during the August recess. The organization only broke seven-figure spending on congressional trip once - in 2009 - when it spent almost $1.2 million. More than half that amount went to August travels, the website stated.

Reports surfaced Monday that the group of Republicans, and skinny-dipper Yoder, were scolded for their behavior on the trip.

When Politico revealed that the FBI investigated drinking and nudity on the GOP's trip to Israel, Doug Heye, spokesman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said his boss immediately dealt with the issue a year ago.

"[It was to] effectively to ensure such activities would not take place in the future," Heye's statement read.

Yoder has since apologized for jumping into the Sea of Galilee naked, saying "regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit."

Not only is the Sea of Galilee the largest fresh water lake in Israel, it is also a holy Christian site. It attracts people from all over the world, because the Bible says that Jesus walked on its waters.

"It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize," Yoder said in a statement.

According to Politico, 30 GOP lawmakers went on the trip and they were accompanied by their families. However, Legistrom records showed that 32 Republicans were invited on the trip between Aug. 13 and 21. (See the full list of invited members of Congress).

AIEF has not responded to questions from the IBTimes regarding this story. However, its spokesman Patrick Dorton told Politco that it has not been contacted by government agencies, but is "willing to answer any questions or respond to any government inquiry on this event or the overall trip."

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