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New York governor dodges questions on who paid for her trip to wartime Israel

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is refusing to disclose who paid for her to travel to wartime Israel last week for a self-described solidarity mission, a trip that her office said is still awaiting clearance from a state ethics board.

The Democratic governor and a handful of staff and state police were in Israel between Oct. 18 and Oct. 20, meeting with government officials and families displaced by the conflict, while touring various parts of the country.

Hochul, who as governor has no direct role in diplomatic affairs, has sidestepped multiple questions on who funded the trip, with her office saying only that a nonprofit group had pledged to cover the costs. She has said taxpayers paid for her state police detail.

“I just said I have to get over there. Follow all the ethics rules and get me there,” Hochul said this week when asked about the trip’s funding, directing follow-up questions to a spokesperson.

In an email, Hochul spokesperson Avi Small wrote, “A New York-based nonprofit that works with the Jewish community has committed to cover the costs of the Governor’s trip. The independent Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government is in the final stages of reviewing this arrangement to ensure it fully complies with State ethics laws.”

He did not reply to additional messages seeking more information about the nonprofit. A spokesperson for the state Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government said state law blocked them from commenting.

Hochul has justified the trip as a way for her to show support for the Israeli people during the ongoing war. New York has the highest population of Jewish people outside of Israel. California Gov. Gavin Newsom made a one-day trip to Israel last week to meet with people affected by Israel’s war with Hamas, stopping there on his way to China for a weeklong tour focused on climate change policies.

Blair Horner, executive director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, said the governor should have gotten the trip approved by state ethics officials to ensure the nonprofit did not have ties to business before the state or other connections that could raise ethical issues.

“The governor should have gotten preclearance from the ethics commission before she did anything, before wheels lifted from the tarmac,” Horner said.

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