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Minnis says she neglected to report Israel trip

Jewish Federation paid for the nine-day excursion

House Speaker Karen Minnis said Tuesday that she is filing an amended Statement of Economic Interest for 2005 after discovering that she had not reported a legislative trip to Israel that was paid for by the Portland Jewish Federation.

Minnis, a Wood Village Republican, estimated the value of the trip at $4,000. State law requires that legislators report any food, lodging or travel provided to them that exceeds a certain monetary value. The limit for 2005 was $148. Minnis says there is some question as to whether she legally was required to report the Israel trip, but she regrets not having done so.

'I should have put it on (the form),' she said. 'I thought I had reported it.'

Following recent revelations that other legislators had taken trips to Hawaii that were paid for by beer and wine distributors, Minnis rechecked her records and discovered she had failed to report the Israel trip.

'I have filed an amended form,' she said Tuesday. 'It's better to admit it and deal with it.'

Minnis accompanied state Treasurer Randall Edwards and two other legislators on the nine-day trip, which occurred in November 2005. The itinerary, arranged by the Jewish Federation, included visits to a Nike factory, a Tefron factory and an anti-terrorism seminar. The tour also included visits to historic sites, excursions to areas where Israel's 'security situation' could be viewed and discussions with professors and a Holocaust survivor.

Minnis' husband, John, accompanied her on the trip, but he paid his own way.

'The state treasurer invited us to go,' Minnis said. 'It was an economic-development trip.'

The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland was founded in 1920 and is a nonprofit organization. Its website says that it supports a variety of programs for people in need on a nonsectarian basis, locally and around the world.

If the state ethics commission determines that the trip should have been reported more promptly, Minnis could be fined for her failure to report.

Minnis' opponent in the Nov. 7 election, Democrat Rob Brading, said he isn't likely to make an issue out of Minnis' lack of disclosure, but that voters might take notice due to the recent revelations about other lawmakers.

'I can see that with what's gone on in the past week, this might be an issue voters are concerned with,' Brading said.

Incidents such as this lead to voter distrust, he added.

'It still points toward larger questions of what is appropriate behavior,' he said. '… It appears that our laws and reporting mechanisms are inadequate.'