Congressman Kevin Yoder might be embarrassed about skinny dipping in the sea of Galilee, but based on the latest reporting it sounds like neither he nor the other Republicans in his group are responsible for religious or financial transgressions. Still, we've gone from alcohol "playing a role" in the incident, as Politico's Jake Sherman and John Breshanan reported on Monday, to news of a several-hundred-dollar bar tab racked up by representatives and staff before their infamous midnight swim at the end of a trip sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's nonprofit American Israel Education Foundation, which Politico's Sherman and Bresnahan reported Thursday. Those in charge of the bill were so worried about potentially violating ethics rules they took up a collection to pay back AIEF:
After several hours of drinking, Rob Bassin, AIPAC’s national political director, paid the tab for the entire evening, which included several hundred dollars for drinks, in addition to the earlier meal. The GOP group racked up a tab of $340 to $500 on booze, ranging from vodka to wine, sources familiar with the trip said.
Steve Stombres, Cantor’s chief of staff, objected, concerned about ethics rules that prohibited the organization from paying for anything more than dinner. Stombres’s concern was so sharp that he spent the next few days collecting money from lawmakers to pay back AIEF.
When the FBI questioned members of the group, it was as part of an investigation into New York Rep. Michael Grimm, who was also on the trip, The Wall Street Journal's Devlin Barrett and Danny Yadron reported. Discovery of the skinny dipping was incidental, but of course naked congressmen are always a headline-grabber. As Sherman and Bresnahan wrote: "The bureau’s questions centered on the lawmakers’ behavior in the water — they inquired about who took a dip and the preceding dinner, according to sources with direct knowledge of the inquiry." So far, no ethics violations have been charged regarding the fateful skinny dipping night.
Then there's the issue of the location: Could there be something sacrilegious about going nude in the sea where Christians believe Jesus walked on water? The short answer is no, according to Christianity Today's Daniel Burke, who surveyed religious leaders and experts in the Holy Land. "Most Christians likely see Yoder's actions as immature—and a waste of taxpayer dollars—'but not as some intentional act of religious desecration,' " Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, told reporter Burke.