"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Monday, September 10, 2007

Montgomery County MA discovers ethics - Bans JCRC paid junkets to Israel

Ban on Political Junkets to Israel Deals Blow to Lobbying Efforts
Nathan Guttman Wed. Sep 05, 2007
The Jewish Daily Forward

Montgomery County, is the richest County in Maryland.US. The County ethics commission decided last month that council members are prohibited from traveling at the expense of the local Jewish community, even when funding is indirectly provided by a private foundation. A trip planned months in advance to Israel was subsequently canceled.

The nine-day trip to Israel was scheduled to leave September 2 and was expected to include council members and county officials from the region surrounding the nation’s capital. The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington organized the trip and paid for all travel expenses, though the costs were reimbursed by a private foundation. Participants were requested to pay only $500 to help cover the costs.

“We were stunned by the commission’s decision,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Greater Washington JCRC, trip organiser.

Hadar Susskind, Washington director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, called the Montgomery County decision “mistaken.” Susskind said that his organization has already begun looking into the decision in order to check if it represents a wider trend that could affect other Jewish communities.

The attention given to lobbying trips to Israel has caused a number of organizations to make a formal separation between their lobbying arm and the branch in charge of sponsoring travel to Israel. Groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have founded subsidiary organizations that deal with taking lawmakers, officials and journalists to Israel. As accompanists for trips to Israel, other organizations now have dedicated staffers who are not registered lobbyists.

The concern about the trips has already seeped down to the local levels where policies tend to depend on state and county ethics rules. Many JCRCs have turned to private foundations to cover the costs, and some have given up funding the trips altogether.

In Boston, the JCRC has asked since 1999 that trip participants pay their own way, covering an estimated $3,200 in travel costs. A Massachusetts ethics commission approved the community’s funding of the trip, but the local JCRC decided to drop the funding anyway, according to executive director Nancy Kaufman.

“Even though we felt we are on solid ground, we decided to err on the side of caution,” Kaufman said.

The reason for the ban arose from the concerns of councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg who contacted the county’s ethics commission asking for an official approval prior to leaving for Israel. A month later, Trachtenberg received a short e-mail from the commission, stating that after “many hours of deliberation, the Ethics Commission has decided that you may not accept the gift of a trip to Israel that has been offered to you.”

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