Kansas Governor Sam Brownback took a secretive, state-funded trip to Israel a month ago, but we only know that because The Hutchinson News broke the story on Oct. 1.
The paper reports that Governor Brownback, his wife, daughter and a few state officials got to Israel on Aug. 26 and were there through Sept. 2.
On Aug. 30, the governor met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That same day Brownback’s press office issued a statement about the governor signing an executive order on hurricane relief. The governor's office put out releases about Brownback taking a number of actions that week but not a peep about the trip, before, during or after.
“It almost looks like they were pretending he was in the state of Kansas,” says Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University.
The Kansas Department of Commerce was the lead agency for the trip, and three Commerce Department officials, including the interim director, went. But the department outsourced trip planning to an Overland Park, Kansas, businesswoman and lobbyist named Margie Robinow, who runs a business importing Israeli jewelry.
Earlier this year, Robinow successfully lobbied to prohibit all state agencies from doing business with companies boycotting Israel. She formed a company to handle the trip planning, but not until almost two weeks after being awarded the contract to do it, July 13, according to the Hutchinson News. Robinow reportedly joined Brownback on the trip to Israel.
This may come up on Wednesday in Washington, when a Senate Committee is scheduled to take up Brownback’s nomination to be ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.
Frank Morris is a national correspondent and senior editor at KCUR 89.3. You can reach him on Twitter @FrankNewsman.