Ten members of Congress and 32 staffers visited a conference in Baku on a trip paid for by Azerbaijan's state-owned oil company, according to a confidential ethics report obtained by the Washington Post. The report claims that the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic funnelled $750,000 through U.S.-based non-profits to conceal the source of funding for the conference. SOCAR had previously sought exemptions to sanctions on Iran for a $28 billion natural gas pipeline in the Caspian Sea, on which it was working with the National Iranian Oil Company. (The exemptions were later approved.) According to the report, travel costs for the Democratic and Republican lawmakers and their spouses topped $112,000; they and staffers also recieved expensive gifts from the company. The House Ethics Committee said it doesn't comment on investigative matters, and lawmakers say they were unaware of the funding source. Three former Obama staffers also spoke at the April 2012 conference, called U.S.-Azerbaijan Relations: Vision for Future.
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