Lobbyist-Linked Group Footed Bill for Rep. Burton’s Bahrain Trip
When Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) and his wife Samia arrived in Bahrain in April, they were greeted with a huge welcome poster featuring oversized smiling headshots of the Burtons.
The veteran Indiana Republican, who is the third-ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs committee, met with the crown prince, after which a local pro-government newspaper ran a picture of the two men under the headline, “Bahrain’s reforms are hailed.” The paper reported that Burton had “lauded His Majesty for his statesmanship [and] steps to modernise Bahrain and promote reforms,” amid continuing pro-democracy protests.
When the congressman returned to Washington from Bahrain, he took to the House floor to praise Bahrain’s leaders and criticize protesters. (See video of the speech below.)
Burton’s soothing words for the embattled government weren’t the only unusual thing about this trip.
The $20,966 cost of the trip, including business-class flights for Burton and his wife, was paid by a nonprofit group, the Bahrain American Council, created last year by the lobbying and public relations firm Policy Impact Communications to promote the Bahraini government line in Washington.
Members of Congress are not allowed to accept travel funds from any entity that “employs or retains” a lobbyist. The rule was instituted in 2007 after the Jack Abramoff scandal, which involved the corrupt lobbyist paying for luxury junkets for members of Congress and other officials.