Staff for at least half a dozen freshman members of Congress have already made their first overseas voyages courtesy of interest groups, and it may come as little surprise to Congress watchers that those trips were all to Israel.
The American Israel Education Foundation, a sister organization to the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbying group, is consistently among the top congressional trip sponsors, last year spending more than $636,000 courting members and their staff. AIEF and other interest groups spend such large sums on international travel in the hopes of making and influencing congressional allies, who get immersed for days in issues from the organization's point of view.
So far, chiefs of staff to Democratic first-years Darren Soto (Fla.), Tom Suozzi (N.Y.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Anthony Brown (Md.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.) and Lou Correa (Calif) have disclosed travel to Israel, courtesy of AIEF.
The chiefs of staff, traveling without their members, spent eight days meeting with security experts, government officials and business leaders in Israel, according to disclosure forms.
Currently, six freshman staffers have disclosed their travel with the group. However, trip-goers have 15 days to file upon their return, and late filings are not uncommon.