Friday, September 23, 2011
San Diego Congressional aide gets free trip to Turkey with Gulen's TUSKON group
It was off to Turkey last month for an aide to North County GOP congressman Darrell Issa, thanks to the American-Turkish Council, which bills itself as a "Business Association dedicated to enhancing the promotion of US-Turkish Commercial, Defense, Technology and Cultural Relations."
Justin LoFranco departed Washington on August 7 and arrived back in town a week later on August 14, accrording to his September 9 post-travel disclosure form posted by Legistorm.com
According to his public profile on Linkedin, LoFranco has been an Issa press aide and is currently deputy director of Digital Strategy for Issa's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: "I do digital for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans."
Expenses picked up by the Turks included $4300 travel, $1386 lodging, $525 in meals, and $550 "other," including, "tips, entrance fee, guide fee, buses."
Issa signed the form authorizing LoFranco's free trip under a paragraph affirming, "I have determined that all of the expenses listed above were necessary and that the travel was in connection with the employee's official duties and would not create the appearance that the employee is using public office for private gain."
According to a review on the host council's website, a little play went along with the work of the trip.
"Again this year, the American-Turkish Council hosted a Congressional Staff delegation visit to Turkey."
"The first stop was Trabzon, where the group was hosted by the Black Sea Industrialist and Business Men’s Federation, Black Sea Businessmen’s Association, and Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON)."
"The discussions continued over dinner, where the guests were served specialties of Trabzon and Black Sea cuisine"
The tour moved on to Ankara for a talk about expanding the Turkish military industrial complex and a meeting with Turkish media representatives.
"Dinner in Ankara was with members of the press and was hosted by the Turkish American Business Council (TAIK).
"The company, the wonderful view from the old city Castle, and the food were a recipe for a great evening."
The next day, it was on to Istanbul, where they met a top Turkish general, laid a wreath at Ataturk’s Mausoleum and "Deputy Assistant Manager of [the] Hyatt Hotel Omur Yeker hosted the group at a marvelous dinner in their Italian Restaurant, Spazio."
The next destination was Bahcesehir University and a chat with a business school dean, and various Turkish non-governmental groups, including the "Foreign Investors Association; Malls and Retailers Association; the Jewish Community, and the Turkish Tourism Agency Association."
"The dinner was held at the rooftop restaurant of the Park Hilton Hotel, which has a wonderful view of the Bosphorus overlooking the Dolmabahce Palace.
"Our gracious hosts were members of TUSKON. It was a great way to end a very busy and full week of meetings and program."
"Saturday was reserved mostly for a tour of Istanbul, but the first visit in the morning was to the Eastern Orthodox Fener Patriarch, where Deacon Yuakim Billis greeted the Staff Delegation, told the history of the Patriarchies and took the group on a tour of the compound.
"After this informative and congenial visit, it was time to head to the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar.
"The delegation was also able to visit the shop of the famous Sevan Bicakci, a Turkish jewelry designer of Armenian origin, who has a large following in the United States and the world over.
"Each one of the pieces shown was a magnificent work of art -- a colorful ending to a great trip."