CONGRESS | Some members of Congress spent the summer break hobnobbing with constituents. Others did that while also travelling abroad to places such as Africa, the Middle East, South America and Israel. Roll Call reported over $1.7 million in special interest money was spent on members of Congress to fly free this summer.

Included in the report are South Bay Rep. Mike Honda and the East Bay’s Rep. Eric Swalwell. The congressional newspaper reported the Pacifica Institute; a Turkish lobbying group spent $5,675 to fly Honda to Istanbul last month.

The report also detailed Swalwell’s more widely known trip to Israel last month that included over 60 members of Congress. The excursion was paid for by the American Israeli Foundation for an education seminar, according to Roll Call. On the trip, Swalwell posted numerous photo of himself praying before the Wailing Wall and before Christ himself. The photos were posted on social media.

The nexus of special interests lavishing trips on elected officials, especially those in the perpetually unpopular House of Representatives, is a potential goldmine for any mid-term congressional candidates. Ro Khanna, Honda’s intra-party opponent in the 17th Congressional District didn’t think twice before taking a cut at the report that included Honda in its free version of the article.

“At a time when our nation faces crushing budget shortfalls – and when Congress should have been at the negotiating table to reach bipartisan compromise to avert a looming government shutdown – this spike is a troubling sign that our representatives are putting special interests ahead of our communities,” Khanna said.

Members of Congress are not the only elected officials taking international vacations on lobbyists’ dime. This summer, a similar report detailed a special interest-organized trip to Cuba featuring among other California legislators, Berkeley’s Assemblymember Nancy Skinner.