Friday, August 07, 2009

Air Pelosi, Redux

It's long been apparent that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has a "plane thing." After the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, Ms. Pelosi had a little dust-up with the Bush Administration over her request to use the military version of a Boeing 757 for official travel.

Earlier this year, the speaker had another hissy fit because her new, preferred mode of transportation (a Gulfstream G5) wasn't available. Judicial Watch obtained copies of memos from senior Congressional staffers, demanding answers from the Air Force (which handles most VIP airflift missions for DoD), and suggesting there might be hell to pay because a requested aircraft type was already booked.

"It is my understanding there are no G5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable...The speaker will want to know where the planes are..." wrote Kay King, Director of the House Office of Interparliamentary Affairs. In a separate email, when told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, King writes, "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset [s]peaker."

Supporters of Ms. Pelosi note that her predecessor, Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert, also traveled on a private jet. But Mr. Hastert didn't began using military aircraft for routine travel until after 9-11, and there is no record of him constantly badgering the Air Force for use of executive jets. Records provided to Judicial Watch indicate that Ms. Pelosi's office typically "booked" a G5 every weekend, but often cancelled at the last moment. There is no indication of how much money was wasted on prepping aircraft that were never used.

Such revelations became a p.r. nightmare for the speaker, but Ms Pelosi and her fellow Congressmen don't care. Earlier this week, they added another $250 million to a defense appropriations bill to buy two additional G5s and two more Boeing 737 business jets. The Pentagon had only requested a single G550 and one 737, in addition to the purchase of two Boeing business jets that are currently being leased.

In other words, Congress wants four more top-of-line executive aircraft and by all indications, the lawmakers will get them. We haven't heard a peep out of GOP lawmakers (who also enjoy access to the aircraft), or President Obama. This from the same Republicans who complain about runaway government spending--and a Commander-in-Chief who threatened to veto the defense bill if it contained more money for the F-22 Raptor. As always, hypocrisy is one of the few genuinely bipartisan issues in Washington.

The additional Gulfstreams and Boeing 737s will join a VIP airlift fleet that is already more than sufficient. As we noted back in March, the USAF already operates 80 executive aircraft, used to transport administration officials, senior military leaders and, of course, members of the U.S. Congress.

Analyzing government travel records, The Wall Street Journal found that overseas travel costs for Congressmen and Senators have skyrocketed over the last decade. Between 1995 and 2008, expenditures in that area grew ten-fold, to more than $13 million a year. But even those figures are misleading because they don't include the cost of operating military aircraft, which are often used on such junkets. Under current policy, Congressional spouses are allowed to accompany their husbands or wives on overseas trips.

In case you're wondering, it costs roughly $3,000 an hour to operate a G550 and $5,700 an hour to fly a C-40, the military version of the Boeing business jet. And it comes as no surprise that much of DoD's VIP fleet is hauling lawmakers around the world during the August recess. According to the Journal, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama is leading a delegation to Europe for three weeks (spouses included), and House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio is on a 'round-the-world trip with other Congressmen.

As Speaker of the House, Ms. Pelosi--along with other Congressional leaders--could put a stop to this chicanery. But why take a stand for fiscal responsibility when you can see the world on the taxpayer's dime, and travel in style, on a military VIP jet.


tfhr said...

I always felt Pelosi got the job as Speaker because none of the others in her party were willing to step up to the task. There you go...I tried to say something nice about her here but that's the best I can do.

But as "Air Pelosi, Redux" points out, abusing USAF aircraft and the tax payer in general, cuts across party lines. In fact, it seems like the one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on is how much they enjoy a free ride.


Papa Ray said...

You need an update on your post.

They doubled the request to 500 million

"In for a penny, in for a pound"

Except that this is our pennies and a whole damn lot of them.


Papa Ray
West Texas

John Burgess said...

Just think... if Pan Am had accepted her application as a stewardess lo those many years ago, she would never have gone into politics.

Talks about unintended consequences!

tfhr said...

John Burgess,

Do you think this was all about Nancy Pelosi trying to recapture her youth?

Cripes, she's spent nearly as much on Botox!

The good news is that the Private Jets for Junkets deal has been hit by the CYA axe and "reduced" to it's older, unnecessary sum.

city said...

Where was the post about Mark Sanford's $1200 haircut and personal travel to Argentina at taxpayer expense?

tfhr said...


If I lived in South Carolina I'd want to send the Governor back down to Argentina again...there just wouldn't be a return ticket. I think Sanford was trying to live up to that towering example of a public servant, his neighbor to the north, John Edwards. They both have such great hair but Sanford scored the better mistress.

But city, why would you be so concerned about one idiot ripping off his home state when there are 535 of them, plus their "delegations" comprised of staffers and strap hangers, ripping us all off by jetting all over the globe on needless junkets?

Forest for the trees, city?

Aerospook said...

Can anyone post a link to documentation that Princess Nancy applied for a Panam stewardess (now F/a) position? I have a few female democrats that i would love to show this to...:)