Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) faces new accusations after a report by the House Ethics Committee this week revealed that he was among a group of lawmakers who accepted trips to Turkey that were secretly funded by a Turkish Islamic movement connected to the exiled Fethullah Gülen.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Honda’s August 20 though 28, 2013 visit to Turkey was paid for the by the Pacifica Institute, which is reportedly the “sister organization” of a Turkish-based group called the Bosphorus-Atlantic Association of Cultural Cooperation and Friendship (BAKIAD).
The discovery was made during the House Ethics Committee investigation into Honda’s alleged blurring of lines between his official government duties and reelection campaign last term.
The Pacifica Institute reportedly claimed to the House Ethics Committee that it was a 501(c)(3), which is an official designation of a nonprofit charitable organization by the IRS. However, there was no record of this designation, according to the Mercury News. The organization reportedly covered the $5,700 cost of the trip.
Furthermore, the House Ethics report revealed that BAKIAD had “secretly” funded the Turkish leg of a trip to Azerbaijan taken by 10 other members of Congress and 23 of their staffers in May of 2013.
The Mercury News also reports that Honda was among dozens of House members who signed a February of 2015 letter urging U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to help secure the release of Gülenist journalists who had been arrested by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Gülen has been living in a self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania for the last 20 years after he was accused by the Turkish government of attempting a coup there. Erdogan and Gülen were once allies, but are now enemies.
On Sunday, Erdogan’s ruling AK Party won reelection amid rumors of fraud, and rioters took to the streets, prompting police to use tear gas on them.
Honda spokeswoman Lauren Smith told the Mercury News on Friday that Honda “quite simply, took a trip approved by the House” and pointed out “that this was also after trips taken by other members and staff that were also approved.”
However, Honda’s two-time Democratic rival Ro Khanna wasted no time in pouncing on the news. Khanna’s spokesman Hari Sevugan told the Mercury News that the new revelations raise “serious questions” about Honda.
Last month, several prominent Democrats had “defected” from Honda’s camp to support Khanna.