FBI Investigated Wild GOP Party In Israel That Included Booze, Skinny Dipping

Politico is out this morning with a report about a House GOP trip to Israel that ended being more like a trip to Cancun for Spring Break:

The FBI probed a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff — and one nude member of Congress, according to more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses.

During a fact-finding congressional trip to the Holy Land last summer, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took off his clothes and jumped into the sea, joining a number of members, their families and GOP staff during a night out in Israel, the sources told POLITICO. Other participants, including the daughter of another congressman, swam fully clothed, while some lawmakers partially disrobed. More than 20 people took part in the late-night dip in the sea, according to sources who were participants in the trip.

“A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit,” Yoder said in a statement to POLITICO. “It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize.”

Travis Smith, Yoder’s chief of staff, told POLITICO “Neither Congressman Yoder, nor his staff, have been interviewed by the FBI.”

These GOP sources confirmed the following freshmen lawmakers also went swimming that night: Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) and his daughter; Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and his wife; Reps. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.). Many of the lawmakers who ventured into the lake said they did so because of the religious significance of the waters. Others said they were simply cooling off after a long day. Several privately admitted that alcohol may have played a role in why some of those present decided to jump in.

May have played a role? I’d say it’s pretty certain that alcohol played a role. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy were on the trip, but not present at the Sea of Galilee dinner. The FBI investigation, meanwhile appears to have been rather short and limited to the question of whether or not an impropriety occurred. Since stupidity and drunken cavorting are not crimes, however, the investigation was obviously fairly short lived.

You may recall the Sea of Galilee as the location where Jesus is said to have walked on water. According to all available accounts, he was clothed at the time, unlike Congressman Yoder.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jack Moss says:

    Hardly an “exclusive”. Happened over a year ago. The Obama Apologetic’s attempt at distracting from Newsweek’s Cover on Barack Obama. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/08/19/niall-ferguson-on-why-barack-obama-needs-to-go.html

  2. superdestroyer says:

    Just another data point to show that the U.S. will soon be a one-party-state. When the Republicans refuse to stop being stupid, it should be obvious that the Republican Party will not exist for much longer.

    This should show that all of the wonks and wannabes who claim that the Republican Party will adjust to the demographic changes of the U.S. and become the second big government, big spending party are foolish.

    If the Republicans have rather skinny dip and get drunk rather than govern, almost all voters will just move over the Democratic Party primary and vote for the politicians who promise to deliver the most goodies.

  3. Andy says:

    I guess all the drunken skinny-dipping I did in college will prevent me from being eligible to run for Congress. Oh well.

  4. Boyd says:

    I’m still curious under what premise the FBI conducted any investigation. The report reveals nothing that would merit the FBI’s involvement, however brief.

  5. muffler says:

    @Jack Moss: Wait… stop.. you mean the party that claims the moral high ground.. based only on the reason they claimed it first… visits a foreign country and behaves like a bunch of frat boys and your only response is that Obama is trying distract from a newsweek article… seriously… your not even ashamed, Face it the Republican Brand has been gutted from the inside… it hollow. Seems like exactly what the Republicans and corporations did to the US economy. The People of the United States should only trust the Republicans with sippy cups and plastic toys.

  6. Someone on Balloon Juice remembered this, in opening credits for WKRP in Cincinnati:

    “And the senator, while insisting he was not intoxicated, could not explain his nudity. ”

    (I’d say no big, if it wasn’t for the daughter present. That makes it potentially creepy.)

  7. muffler says:

    @Boyd: On the premise that they represented the United States in a foreign country (on a fact finding trip) and were probably needed the Embassy to clear up their issue. I suspect this that the FBI is required under standard process when US officials break laws while on business outside the US.

  8. Boyd says:

    @muffler: I’m sorry, I missed the part where anyone said a law was broken, or alleged to have been broken. All I see is this:

    The FBI looked into whether any inappropriate behavior occurred…

    I just don’t see a good explanation for why the FBI was involved at all. If they’re going to start investigating instances of inappropriate behavior, they’re going to be pretty busy.

  9. Tano says:

    I’ll take second place to no one when it comes to having contempt for the House GOP, but I must say – what the heck is wrong with a little alcohol-inspired skinny dipping? Its the most sane and responsible thing they have done in years.

  10. @Boyd:

    I really don’t care, but it is remarkably easy to answer this kind of question on the Internets:

    “Naturist Beaches Israel. Although nudity is officially illegal in Israel, you will find many nude beaches throughout the country”

  11. Boyd says:

    @john personna: I’m not talking about what you can find out on the Intarwebz, john. I’m talking about typically sloppy reporting, in this case by Politico.

  12. @Tano:

    Much of the fun Dems are having stems from their imagined counter-factual, what would the Republicans be saying if a Democrat had disrespected Galilee?

  13. al-Ameda says:

    The good news: They were out of the country
    The bad news: They came back.

  14. @Boyd:

    Whatever. It was trivial to search and find that they’d broken a probably minor Israeli law while on “work” not “vacation.” As the Politico piece says, they were interviews to make sure nothing worse happened. That was the end of it.

  15. mantis says:


    I just don’t see a good explanation for why the FBI was involved at all. If they’re going to start investigating instances of inappropriate behavior, they’re going to be pretty busy.

    Inappropriate behavior by a Congressman while in a foreign country. I’m sure those details would cut down on the incidents needing investigation (if only by a little!).

    I’m talking about typically sloppy reporting, in this case by Politico.

    Well, no defense of Politico here, but it seems that all of their information is coming from witnesses and not the FBI, who are keeping mum. My guess is someone reported possible illegal activity (and don’t tell me you can’t at least see the possibility that something illegal happened) and the FBI did a perfunctory, brief investigation, because they would be remiss not to have done so.

  16. BTW, it looks like Southerland’s daughter was less than 24:

    Steve Southerland and Susan, his wife of 24 years, met in the first grade and have spent most of their formative years together. Steve and Susan are proudly instilling the values of faith, family, and freedom in the next generation of Southerlands – their daughters Samantha, Stephanie, Ally, and Abby.

  17. John,

    According to the report I read just about an hour ago (can’t find the link now) Southerland’s daughter was 21 at the time. Still, all kind of weird

  18. For those of you questioning why the FBI was involved, this may be a reason.

  19. An Interested Party says:

    The Obama Apologetic’s attempt at distracting from Newsweek’s Cover on Barack Obama.

    That trash needs no distracting from it, but rather, an appropriate rebuttal