All eyes are on the Midwest today.
First it was Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” remarks, then the actions of Kansas lawmaker Rep. Kevin Yoder – who made waves today (pun intended) when it was revealed that he went skinny dipping in the Sea Of Galilee last summer during a congressional fact-finding trip to Israel.
According to Politico, the trip was sponsored by the American Israel Educational Foundation, a group related to prominent pro-Israel advocacy group AIPAC. The trip took place from Aug. 13 to Aug. 21, 20011 and more than 60 people attended – including Rep. Tom Marino (R-Lycoming).
More than a year later, the FBI probed the trip to see who ventured into the water (clothed and unclothed) and whether there was any improper conduct.
Politico reported that many claimed to have entered the water because of its religious significance (The Sea of Galilee is where Jesus is said to have walked on water); others were simply cooling off.
Also, alcohol may have been involved.
Several Democratic challengers have since made issue about the trip, in which many freshman Republican congressmen participated – and Marino’s opponent Phil Scollo is no exception.
In a press release issued today, Scollo’s campaign sent out a press release discussing the 9-day trip with “all expenses paid” by special interests.
The press release also mentions Marino’s recent troubles resulting from a defense bill vote that would jeopardize funding for a major employer in his district.
“This sounds more like a frat party than a respectable congressional delegation,” said Scollo’s Campaign Manager Will Sharry.
Sharry also questioned the expense of the trip (up to $1,000 per night) and whether Marino or his staff participated in a dinner that took place before the swimming incident.
“Tom Marino and his freshman buddies are clearly out of control and not up to the job of representing their constituents. They are looking more like college kids drunk with power and out of the house for the first time every day,” said Sharry.
“The people of northeast and central Pennsylvania deserve someone who is focused on what matters to them – not someone who goes off globetrotting with special interest money while cutting the jobs that are the very lifeline of our area.”
What the release fails to mention, however, is that Marino’s staff reported today on WKOK 1070 AM that the Congressman was not only not present at the dinner, but he was also nowhere near the sea at the time of the skinny dipping incident.
Why? Because he was at McDonalds.
Although the First Lady may not be approving of his food choices, it seems that indulging in a late night french fry binge was a better choice than attending the pre-swim dinner.
A Marino staff statement says that the attention his office is getting from this trip distracts from the serious work of Congress.
“As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Middle East Subcommittee, this trip was an important opportunity for Tom to learn more about the U.S.-Israel relationship and the threats our ally Israel faces from its neighbors in the region,” the statement said.