Five House Democrats who are members of the Congressional Black Caucus took an official three-day trip to South Africa to be treated as VIPs at a Beyonce and Jay Z concert, according to congressional disclosure records. The trip occurred last December and was paid for by the nonprofit group Global Citizen, an organization that lobbies governments to fund anti-poverty programs. It was a gathering of Marxist progressives.
The trip cost roughly $60,000 and the stated purpose was to attend the “Global Citizen Mandela 100” concert. They claimed it was to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the late Nelson Mandela and raise awareness of global poverty. Mandela was a communist and attended Communist Party gatherings. The party/concert was headlined by Beyonce, Jay Z, Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams, and Chris Martin.
The lawmakers were U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks of New York, Barbara Lee of California, Bobby Rush of Illinois, Terri Sewell of Alabama and Hank Johnson of Georgia, who according to the data, attended the event with VIP backstage passes. Also at the concert was Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator and special representative for Global Health Diplomacy. Al Sharpton was there as well. The event was co-sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, Coca Cola Africa, CISCO, NedBank, Vodacom, HP, and Microsoft.
Al Sharpton tweeted: “I’m in South Africa headed to the Global Citizen Festival with Congressional Black Caucus members Greg Meeks, Barbara Lee, Bobby Rush & Hank Johnson & my @MSNBC colleague Joy Reid. #GlobalCitizenFestivalSA.”
Attendees flew business class to Johannesburg, South Africa for the concert and stayed in a four-star hotel from Dec. 1st to Dec. 3rd. The National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group, said the all-expense trip made a “mockery” of House ethics rules that prohibit members of Congress from accepting paid trips that are not directly related to their official duties or that “create the appearance that the [individual] is using public office for private gain.” The group that paid for the trip is a lobbying group.
I’m in South Africa headed to the Global Citizen Festival with Congressional Black Caucus members Greg Meeks, Barbara Lee, Bobby Rush & Hank Johnson & my @MSNBC colleague Joy Reid. #GlobalCitizenFestivalSA pic.twitter.com/vnYAbI8J09
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) December 2, 2018
“These members of Congress that were given an all-expense paid vacation to party with Oprah, Jay Z, and Beyonce in South Africa are claiming with a straight face this was needed to help poor children around the world live better lives,” said Tom Anderson, president of the NLPC’s Government Integrity Project.
“This was in fact, a mockery of House ethics rules on gifts and travel, the truly poor, and all Americans that expect members of Congress to live not only by the letter of the law but by the spirit and intentions of the rules of the House of Representatives.”
Airfare for each person cost over $10,000. When asked to describe on the form why the trip was related to Meeks’ congressional duties, he wrote: “As a Sr. member of the Foreign Affairs Comm who understands the importance of both multilateral & bilateral relations on trade & foreign policy, developing that relationship is crucial.”
In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Jackie McGuinness, communications director for Rep. Sewell, said: “Rep. Sewell and several other members attended the Global Citizen Mandela 100 Festival, a platform for world leaders to speak out against racial injustice and inequity, and voice their support for international assistance for underprivileged populations.
“Her travel was pre-approved by the House Ethics Committee and was not paid for at taxpayer expense.” Meeks, Lee, Rush, and Johnson did not respond to requests for comment.
Global Citizen said the presence at the concert of members of Congress would “showcase America’s ongoing commitment [to] health equality and global human rights.”
Global Citizen also stated that the event would “feature a once-in-a-lifetime lineup of global music, and leaders from Africa and around the world making unprecedented commitments.” They paid for the meals, a tour guide and private security for the members of Congress.
From the Washington Examiner:
“Tickets to the concert, which drew celebrities guests including Oprah Winfrey and “The Daily Show’s” Trevor Noah, were an extremely hot commodity. Access to the festival was limited mainly to performers, public officials, and local Global Citizen activists.
“A limited number of tickets — less than 30 percent — were available to the general public for between $130 and $373, according to South Africa ticket seller Computicket. The remainder of the tickets could be “earned” by residents of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland by completing tasks such as tweeting about Global Citizen’s advocacy campaigns, sending emails to public officials, and participating in real-life activism such as trash collection.
“The concert organizers even cut off an international livestream of Beyonce’s performance after 25 minutes, devastating the singer’s fans, in order to keep her full set exclusive to concert attendees.
“According to the travel itinerary, the members of Congress were in South Africa for just one full day on Dec. 2, with two partial travel days.
“The day of the concert included a backstage event moderated by the prime minister of Norway and the president of Ghana, a “stage moment” for the members of Congress to make a public statement, and additional meetings with heads of state and NGOs. A 15- to 30-minute block of time was also reserved for the members of Congress to meet with the performers.”
Other performers at the event included Eddie Vedder, Usher, Casper Nyovest, D’Banj, Femi Kuti, Sho Madjozi, Tiwa Savage, and Wizkid.