Last updated: 20 August, 2012

FBI probes Republicans’ drunken Israel trip

The FBI has investigated an incident that saw at least one Republican congressman swim naked at a drinking party in Israel last year attended by top leadership staff, Politico reported.

The news website said Representative Keving Yoder of Kansas stripped and jumped into the Sea of Galilee during the privately-funded trip, joining colleagues and their family members who were partially or fully clothed.

“Regrettably, I jumped into the water without a swimsuit,” Yoder told Politico.

“It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize.”

Over 20 people participated in the late-night dip on August 18, 2011, according to the news website.

Some of the lawmakers who jumped in said they did so because of the religious significance of the waters, where Jesus is said to have walked on water and performed other miracles.

Freshmen lawmakers Steve Southerland of Florida, Tom Reed, Ben Quayle, Jeff Denham and Michael Grimm also participated, Politico said, citing Republican sources. Southerland’s daughter and Reed’s wife were also said to have joined the party in the water.

Although the FBI probed the incident to determine whether any inappropriate behavior took place, no formal allegations of wrongdoing seem to have yet been made, according to Politico.

But the most senior Republican lawmaker on the trip, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, scolded the 30 lawmakers the next day for causing distraction from the trip’s mission.

A Cantor aide said a staffer was also interviewed by FBI agents.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, who holds the number three post in the House of Representatives, was also on the visit.

The congressional delegation to Israel was funded by the American Israel Educational Foundation — a group tied to top pro-Israel lobby AIPAC — and lasted from August 13-21, 2011.

AIEF paid over $10,000 per person for the more than 60 people who took part in the trip, according to Politico.

Any wrongdoing would be of particular concern to congressional leaders amid a wave of scandals that has hit both Republicans and Democrats, making Congress dip to new lows in polls.