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Clarke defends ‘Mt. Obama’ visit

Rep. Yvette D. Clarke last week lashed out at published reports alleging she violated the law while recently traveling to the country of Antigua for the naming of the country’s highest peak as “Mount Obama.”

The New York Post quoted Jock Friedly, president and founder of LegiStorm, a nonpartisan Washington group that publishes information about congressional pay, perks and pork, who alleged that Clarke broke the law in allowing foreign governments to pay for U.S. legislators’ travel.

The Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act specifically prohibits any foreign government or representative of a foreign government from paying travel costs for a member of Congress.

Clarke’s three-day trip early last month cost more than $1,700, according to records, and was paid for by Portfolio Marketing Group, a New York lobbying firm. Among the lobbying firm’s clients are the Antigua and Barbuda government.

While the Post reported that Clarke’s office refused comment, the Brooklyn lawmaker -- whose 11th Congressional District encompasses Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Flatbush as well as small sections of Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens and Midwood -- called the story “a reckless and groundless accusation.”

“This Codel (Congressional Delegation) was pre-approved, in writing, on July 29, 2009 by the House Committee on Standard of Official Conduct [House Ethics Committee],” said Clarke. “All the proper paperwork was filed before and after the trip. As customary when traveling on these business trips, my round-trip seat was in coach. The Codel was all of three days, two of which were travel days, to and from Antigua.”

Clarke also produced the House Office of the Clerks website that includes the approval page in which the House Ethics Committee sanctioned the trip.

“I followed all the proper procedures to ensure that this trip was approved by the House Ethics Committee. I am fully confident that the Ethics Committee would never approve a trip that was deemed illegal in any way, shape, or form,” she said.

Clarke also noted her Congressional District includes one of the largest concentrations of Caribbean Americans in the nation, and that she is an active member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

“There are a number of challenges facing these nations that directly impact the United States. Drug trafficking, illicit gun trade and human trafficking across our borders are just a few examples of the many issues that need a coordinated response to effectively assist Caribbean people in their home countries and people of Caribbean descent that live in America,” said Clarke.

“As long as I serve on the 11th Congressional District of Brooklyn, I will continue to travel to the Caribbean and actively encourage an open and productive relationship with the U.S,” she added.

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