by Daveda Gruber:
Democrats like paid vacations. We saw this when, in January, a group of Congressional Democrats was criticized for flying to Puerto Rico for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC gathering in San Juan. The trip included a special performance of the Broadway play “Hamilton.”
This was not the only vacation that they didn’t have to paid for.
According to congressional disclosure records, five members of the Congressional Black Caucus took a $60,000 trip to see Beyoncé and her husband, JAY-Z at a live performances in Johannesburg, South Africa late last year.
The event, which honored the 100th anniversary of the birth of late South African leader Nelson Mandela also featured performances and appearances from Ed Sheeran, Eddie Vedder, Pharrell Williams, Chris Martin, Kacey Musgraves, Usher, Oprah and “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah.
The lawmakers who went on the taxpayer funded trip were:
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama
U.S. Rep.Hank Johnson of Georgia
The Democrats attended the “Global Citizen Mandela 100” concert from Dec. 1-3 to celebrate the centenary birth of the late Nelson Mandela and raise awareness of global poverty.
The lawmakers appeared in a photo that the Rev. Al Sharpton, who also attended the event, posted on his Twitter page:
I’m in South Africa headed to the Global Citizen Festival with Congressional Black Caucus members Greg Meeks, Barbara Lee, Bobby Rush & Hank Johnson & my @MSNBC colleague Joy Reid. #GlobalCitizenFestivalSA pic.twitter.com/vnYAbI8J09
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) December 2, 2018
The Washington Examiner reported that the trip was paid for by Global Citizen, a nonprofit that lobbies for anti-poverty programs around the world. There were over 90,000 fans in attendance.
The group said the presence of members of Congress at the concert would “showcase America’s ongoing commitment [to] health equality and global human rights.”
It was reported that Rep. Meeks said, “In the spirit of Nelson Mandela, we pledge to keep working with our colleagues in Congress, across the country and across the aisle, to make sure that every child in Africa and at home has the opportunity to thrive and grow in a safe and prosperous world.”
When asked how the trip was related to his congressional duties Meeks said, “As a Sr. member of the Foreign Affairs Comm[ittee] who understands the importance of both multilateral & bilateral relations on trade & foreign policy, developing that relationship is crucial.”
A watchdog group, The National Legal and Policy Center, called the trip a “mockery.”
Tom Anderson, president of the NLPC’s Government Integrity Project, said, “These members of Congress that were given an all-expense paid vacation to party with Oprah, Jay Z, and Beyoncé in South Africa are claiming with a straight face this was needed to help poor children around the world live better lives. This was in fact, a mockery of House ethics rules on gifts and travel, the truly poor, and all Americans that expect members of Congress to live not only by the letter of the law but by the spirit and intentions of the rules of the House of Representatives.”
The nature of the Global Citizen Festival itself are adamant that those who earned tickets via their activism deserve a unique reward and that reward is being the only group of people who get to watch the performance in full.
A representative for Rep. Sewell said her travel “was pre-approved by the House Ethics Committee and was not paid for at taxpayer expense.”
The representative also said, “Rep. Sewell and several other members attended the Global Citizen Mandela 100 Festival, a platform for world leaders to speak out against racial injustice and inequity, and voice their support for international assistance for underprivileged populations.”
According to the travel itinerary, the congressional members were in South Africa for one full day and also used two partial days for travel.
Here are some portions of the concert the Democrats enjoyed:
— OneTribeMag™ (@OneTribeMag) December 2, 2018
— BEYONCÉ LEGION (@BeyLegion) December 2, 2018
— 💜Purple Passion💜 (@love__hangover) December 2, 2018