Hawaii Lawmakers Offered Free Trip to Turkey

Flickr; Jeremy Vandel

Hawaii lawmakers have been invited on an all-expense paid "Intercultural Dialogue" trip to Turkey.

But Hawaii State Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo sent out a memo to politicians Tuesday, urging lawmakers to check with the commission before booking a seat on the trip.

"The State Ethics Commission understands that legislators may have received invitations from the Pacifica Institute to participate in a trip to the Republic of Turkey," the memo began. "With respect to the Pacifica Institute's invitation, the State Ethics Commission does not have sufficient understanding of Pacifica Institute, the purpose of the trip, or the state 'benefit' associated with the trip..."

The trip offer is an extreme example of the kind of benefits thrown lawmakers' way.

The 11-day excursion, from May 13-24, is being cosponsored by the Pacifica Institute, a nonprofit with a mission "to promote cross-cultural awareness, in order to attain peace and diversity with our neighbors, help establish a better society where individuals love, respect and accept each other as they are," according to the invitation obtained by Civil Beat.

Excluding airfare and Visa costs, the invitation says sponsoring members of BAKIAD, a "Turkey-based businessmen association," will cover "accommodation in 3, 4 or 5 star hotels and traveling expenses such as bus transportation, meals, and museum/historical site visits in Turkey."

The invitation boasts that lawmakers will not need to pay for anything additional except souvenirs.

Included in the "travel itinerary" are visits to palaces, mosques, museums, lunches with local government officials, traditional Turkish baths, trips to high schools and TV stations.

Listed as "cities and sites that you may get to visit" are: Izmir, Istanbul, Antalya, Ephesus, Selcuk, Konya and Cappadocia.

There's even a House-Concurrent Resolution working its way through the Legislature, a measure "recognizing and improving relations with the Republic of Turkey."

The resolution states that "Hawaii and the Republic of Turkey enjoy a strong, vibrant, and mutually beneficial economic relationship, with the prospect of future growth."

Obtaining information on Pacifica is difficult. Its website is listed as "under maintenance". A visit to BAKIAD's website produces similar results. Screenshots of the websites are below:




Civil Beat called the number listed for the Pacifica Institute on the invitation to lawmakers. It has not received a response to a request to speak with someone about the Turkey trip.

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