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Oklahoma senator takes multiple African visits on whose dime?

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The drums are echoing tonight about Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, according to a recent story in The Oklahoman.

Inhofe's various trips Africa totaled $187,000, according to the story. The senator visited the continent on the average of twice a year " making at least 20 trips " since 1999, all on taxpayer-financed trips. The trips, said The Oke, "spanned the continent" but usually concentrated on Uganda and Ethiopia.

Some of the trips were on military airplanes, which don't disclose their costs, but use thousands of dollars of fuel and maintenance per trip. Plus, Inhofe frequently brought along staff members, lawmakers and sometimes even his wife.

Why? Well, Inhofe said the trips have been humanitarian, national security and economic missions in which he helped get food to starving children in Ethiopia, facilitated resolutions for disputes, arranged military training for some African military forces and shined congressional light on corrupt African regimes and their atrocities.

While the story said Inhofe's travel has been funded using taxpayer dollars, his efforts are linked to a national religious organization that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast.

According to The Oke, the organization is called The Fellowship Foundation. The foundation states its purpose as "mentoring, counseling and partnering with friends around the world: The foundation seeks to encourage individuals to integrate the principles of Jesus in their work and in their everyday relationships."

With their backing, Inhofe said, he seeks to cure what's deep inside the heart of Africa.

Speaking about his work in an Assemblies of God publication, Inhofe said, "I've adopted 12 countries all the way from Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo and Gabon in West Africa as far east as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. I'm planning to meet with nine presidents in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. My focus will be to meet in the spirit of Jesus."

One African leader said Inhofe has also been overseeing programs to AIDS-stricken regions there.

Inhofe has "played an active role in the faith-based aspect of our anti-AIDS campaign," said Charles Ssentongo, deputy chief of mission at the Ugandan Embassy in Washington, D.C.

He sure has been active. The story said Inhofe voted against $50 billion in such funding last year.

But is Inhofe " or anyone " frightened of the thing he has become? Probably not, if you listen to what he said in a recent interview:

"I'm guilty of two things," Inhofe said. "I'm a Jesus guy, and I have a heart for Africa."

No word on whether or not Jim blessed the rains down in Africa. Hurry, Jim. She's waiting there for you.

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