Summer may be over, but the California Legislature’s travel season is just getting started.
This week, a group of current and former state lawmakers, led by Speaker of the Assembly John Perez, returns from a ten-day trip to Armenia. According to multiple Armenian news outlets, the trip is intended to strengthen ties between the country and California, the “motherland” of the largest Armenian diaspora community in the United States.
“We are hopeful that this first in kind mission would leave a lasting impact and contribute to strengthening political contacts between the Republic of Armenia and the great State of California – home to hundreds of thousands of compatriots,” Grigor Hovhannissian, the former Consul General of Armenia,” said in advance of the trip.
The trip, which began on September 15, included meetings with the President of Armenia, dinner with the Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly, a visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial, and several festivities and celebrations in honor of Armenian Independence Day on September 21.
In addition to Perez, the legislative delegation to Armenia includes Assemblymembers Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, Cheryl R. Brown, D-San Bernardino, Adrin Nazarian, D-Sherman Oaks, Scott Wilk, R- Santa Clarita, and Nazarian’s chief of staff, Dan Savage. Former state lawmakers and current Los Angeles City Councilmen Bob Blumenfield and Paul Krekorian, along with several of Krekorian’s staff members, also joined the delegation that was organized in conjunction with the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region.
“The President of Armenia noted with satisfaction that the Armenian-American relations are currently at the highest level,” reports the Times.am, an Armenian news site.
Nazarian echoed the Armenian president’s sentiments.
“I look forward to continue working with the ANCA in building a greater relationship between the Republic of Armenia, the California State Assembly and the Armenian American Diaspora,” said Nazarian, who participated in the junket along with his chief of staff, Dan Savage. “Promoting further awareness of issues pertinent to Armenia is an integral part of my responsibility as both a State Assemblyman and as an Armenian-American.”
California Officials Won’t Talk Publicly about Armenian Trip
Yet, if the trip’s purpose was to strengthen ties between government officials, the California delegation has a funny way of showing it. Neither Speaker Perez’s office nor Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, the most senior Republican lawmaker on the trip, would respond to repeated requests for comment about the trip.
It’s not clear why Perez’s office has declined to comment on the trip. Perhaps the speaker felt the Armenian press, which ranks 74th in Reporters Without Borders 2013 World Press Freedom Index, was up to the task.
The fall trip to Armenia is the fourth international junket by California lawmakers this year. During the legislature’s spring break, 15 legislators participated in fact-finding trips to Poland and Taiwan, according to the Los Angeles Times. CalWatchdog first reported on an eight-member legislative trip to Cuba with Sacramento lobbyist Darius Anderson. One legislator that participated in the Cuba junket remains unidentified.
CA Legislators on September 2013 Trip to Armenia:
- Speaker John A. Pèrez, Speaker of the California State Assembly
- Honorable Katcho Achadjian, California State Assembly
- Honorable Cheryl R. Brown, California State Assembly
- Honorable Adrin Nazarian, California State Assembly
- Honorable Scott Wilk, California State Assembly
Los Angeles City Councilmembers on September 2013 Trip to Armenia:
- Honorable Bob Blumenfield, Los Angeles City Council
- Honorable Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles City Council
Elected Officials’ Staff Members on September 2013 Trip to Armenia:
- Dan Savage, Chief of Staff, Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian
- Areen Ibranossian, Chief of Staff, Councilmember Paul Krekorian
- Jeremy Oberstein, Communications Director, Councilmember Paul Krekorian
- Karo Torossian, Director of Planning and Land Usage; Councilmember Paul Krekorian
Armenian National Committee of America Representatives on September 2013 Trip to Armenia:
- Ms. Nora Hovsepian, Chair, Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region
- Ms. Elen Asatryan, Executive Director, Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region