Sunday, July 3, 2011

Congressman McIntyre takes heat over lavish taxpayer-funded junket to Europe.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / July 3, 2011
Published: Sunday, July 3, 2011 at 4:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, July 3, 2011 at 4:55 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre was criticized last week for a 10-day trip to Europe at taxpayer expense, but the Democrat from Lumberton said the trip was about "economic and military security."

The trip wasn't about celebrating his 29th anniversary with his wife, Dee, McIntyre said in a phone interview from Lithuania on Wednesday night. His wife made the trip with the congressman, but McIntyre has said he was covering her expenses.
A recent article in "The Huffington Post" was critical of the trip, highlighting a blurb about the McIntyres' wedding anniversary that appeared on the trip itinerary. McIntyre said it was a coincidence that his anniversary fell during the trip and said the mention of the anniversary was just a "courtesy notation" on the schedule.
"That had nothing to do with it, and that's being entirely misconstrued," McIntyre said.
McIntyre said he was invited on the trip by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind. He said he was asked because of his dual roles as senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
McIntyre was one of six House members, four of their wives and others on the 10-day trip, which took them to Rome; Tbilisi, Georgia; Vilnius, Lithuania; Moscow and Lisbon.
The first stop was Rome, where McIntyre said the visit was centered around the fact that Italy is implementing policies to help stabilize the European financial markets in light of financial problems in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and elsewhere.

"We live in a global economy. What is happening in the European financial markets will affect American businesses, American jobs and our neighborhood banks," he said.

The other reason behind the trip was from an armed services perspective, McIntyre said. Italy is a key American ally in Europe, he said, and U.S. military presence on five bases in Italy allows power projection through Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East. Italy has also increased its police and military trainers in Afghanistan and has helped address the Libyan conflict, the congressman said.

Georgia, McIntyre said, recently doubled its troops in Afghanistan, and has become a "shining example of democracy and free enterprise."

Lithuania, where McIntyre was when he called, has special forces operating along the Pakistani border and is working closely with U.S. Special Forces.

Also in Lithuania, McIntyre was to speak at the Community of Democracies' Parliamentary Forum for Democracy.

"From Bosnia and Kosovo to the recent events in North Africa and the Middle East, there is a sweeping popular demand for democratic rule," McIntyre said. "When nations embrace democratic rule, it is one of our best weapons against tyranny and terrorism."

McIntyre then spent time in Moscow and Lisbon and was set to return over the weekend to attend Fourth of July events in the 7th Congressional District.