Attempts to interview Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., about his privately-paid trip to Mecca last year have been unsuccessful. The Star Tribune reported today that Ellison had not disclosed the cost of the trip, which was picked up by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. Ellison’s spokesman, Rick Jauert, said the congressman was tied up all day in a subcommittee hearing. He sent this statement instead:
“In the summer of 2008 Congressman Ellison received an invitation to participate in a trip to Saudi Arabia to observe the Hajj, a religious pilgrimage. Congressman Ellison was invited by a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that neither employs nor retains a federal lobbyist. The inviting organization has sponsored trips of community leaders to the Hajj in the past.
In accordance with the guidelines of the U.S. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Congressman Ellison’s office requested guidance from the Committee regarding the invitation Congressman Ellison received.
The bi-partisan Standards of Official Conduct Committee approved Congressman Ellison’s participation in the trip stating, ‘This trip is not subject to the private sponsor certification, Committee approval, and post-travel disclosure requirements for officially-connected travel.’
The trip included no official business, and therefore did not constitute ‘officially-connected travel.’ In addition, no part of the trip included tax-payer expense.
Congressman Ellison’s office reported the travel in accordance with the Committee’s guidelines and is in compliance with the Committee’s rules and regulations. In short, Congressman Ellison followed all of the rules and procedures of the U.S. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.”