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JewishJournal.com

June 2, 2008

Olmert’s American visit: Parading an embarassment

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/olmerts_american_visit_parading_an_embarassment_20080602/

First, let’s discuss junkets. All politicians take them, and no doubt some are valuable. Others are quite troubling. Journalists being journalists condemn politicians who accept travel from vested interests and criticize those who finance foreign visits using public funds. Last week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who on June 11 will begin a seven-day tour of Israel’s green technology and security advancements, caught the brunt of the LA Daily News’ editorial blunt:

In the best of financial times, taxpayers are justified in their suspicions of political junkets. Too often, these publicly funded trips are barely disguised vacations for government officials, payoffs to political cronies and private power brokers, or a way to cement a politician’s public profile among various key constituencies.

But in tough financial times like these - with local governments planning massive service cuts and fee hikes - junketeers are all the more obligated to prove that their field trips are truly worth the public’s money.

That is especially true of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s weeklong trip to Israel in June, which will be paid for by the city’s airports, port, and water and power departments.

To be sure, there are conceivable, legitimate travel expenses for government officials, especially in such a massive and complex city as Los Angeles. The Mayor’s Office cites the trip to Israel as a chance to bring city leaders up to speed on developments in aviation, security and environmental sustainability - all valid city concerns.

That said, the details available so far don’t go far enough to justify the untold thousands in taxpayer funds this trip will cost. ...

There are legitimate reasons for city officials to travel on the public’s dime - but politics and R&R aren’t among them.

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Today’s dignitary, or maybe in this case indignitary, to be called out was Ehud Olmert, who tomorrow begins what will likely be his final American trip as Israel’s prime minister. From Haaretz:

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