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MA Governor Takes AIPAC Payola

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    Romney plans trip to Israel as guest of powerful lobbying group http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/BOS3355/ BOSTON (AP) -- Gov. Mitt Romney plans to
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2005
      Romney plans trip to Israel as guest of powerful lobbying group

      BOSTON (AP) -- Gov. Mitt Romney plans to travel to Israel in September
      as a guest of America's most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group.
      Politicial observers say the expedition could be an attempt to pad his
      thin foreign policy credentials as he considers a presidential run.

      The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, arranged
      Romney's trip, which is scheduled for Sept. 23-29, The Boston Globe
      reported. The group has powerful sway in Washington and offers free
      trips to members of Congress, policy makers, and other U.S. leaders.

      Romney's itinerary is still undetermined, but a spokesman described
      the trip as a trade mission. AIPAC trips typically include meetings
      with top Israeli government officials, political leaders and
      Palestinian groups.

      Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's spokesman, said the trip will focus on
      helping Massachusetts businesses. The invitation was officially
      extended by the American Israel Education Foundation, AIPAC's
      nonprofit affiliate.

      The trip would be Romney's first in more than 21/2 years as governor.
      Former Gov. William F. Weld, who also harbored national ambitions,
      took 11 international trips during his six years as governor.

      Fehrnstrom said Romney, a Republican who has in the past described
      trade missions as "boondoggles," will also study Israel's approach to
      fighting terrorism.

      The trip could help fill gaps in Romney's resume on international
      issues, and introduce him to a group that can offer financial support
      for a presidential campaign.

      "Mitt Romney will be the latest in a long line of elected officials,
      particularly governors, who want to burnish their foreign policy
      credentials," said Steven Grossman, a former Democratic candidate for
      governor and the one-time chairman of the American Israel Public
      Affairs Committee.

      "I have no doubt if he runs, he will use the fact that he took the
      trip as a calling card to the American Jewish community."

      The governor has said he'll make a decision on his political future
      this fall. Romney has hinted he may forego a 2006 re-election bid to
      focus on a 2008 run for president.

      Members of Congress and government watchdog groups have criticized
      such trips and special interests' ability to sway American policy making.

      "The general concern for all these trips is the ability to buy access
      and influence," said Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for Common Cause in its
      national office.

      Romney's office has asked the state Ethics Commission for guidance on
      whether he can accept the offer. Fehrnstrom said the cost is unclear,
      but a weeklong trip with the committee typically costs more than
      $5,000 per person. Romney plans to bring his wife, Ann.

      "These trips allow participants to meet with a wide variety of people
      whose views span the political spectrum, both among the Israelis and
      the Palestinians, academics, journalists, business leaders, and
      experts in homeland security," said Josh Bloch, the committee's spokesman.

      The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has 70,000 members and
      spends tens of millions of dollars each year lobbying members of
      Congress. It courts both Republicans and Democrats.

      AIPAC was recently pulled into a Washington probe into whether a
      Pentagon analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, leaked classified military
      information to AIPAC employees. The former employees have not been
      charged, and the organization denies any wrongdoing. Franklin has also
      pleaded innocent to a six-count indictment.



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