Despite the fact that Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is covering much of mayor Ed Murray's trade mission to Israel, the city is still paying about $24,000 for the trip, PubliCola has learned.
Mayor Murray is currently leading a trade delegation of Seattle business leaders to Israel, speaking at a gay and lesbian conference, marching in Israel's gay pride parade, and, Murray's staff notes (in response to critics of Israel), also meeting with Arab members of Israel's parliament and visiting Palestine.
KUOW reported on the potential controversy that Israel is paying for the mayor's trip. Accepting money from foreign governments isn't kosher for political candidates under U.S. federal elections law. Wiggle room for Murray: He is not a candidate at the moment. And Seattle Ethics and Elections director Wayne Barnett said the gift (hotel costs) doesn't violate local laws because Barnett doesn't believe Israel has any practical business in front of Mayor Murray. Why the trade delegation then? (I have a call in to Barnett.)
Meanwhile, Seattle taxpayers are picking up some of the bill for the Murray mission, paying airfare for a Murray staffer. (The mayor's office told me that cost about $5,000.)
However, a larger part of the bill (that hasn't been reported) is Murray's security detail—travel, lodging, food, and overtime for the Seattle police officers that accompanied Murray. Pressed (the SPD refused to tell me), the mayor's office told me SPD is paying $19,000 to supply Murray with security detail.
That brings the grand total to about $24,000 on the public tab.
(Footnote: The KUOW story reports that Murray is the only mayor in recent years to accept a gift like this, but that's not correct: Former mayor Mike McGinn's trip to China was partly paid for by the Chinese city of Chongqing.)