we learned how ravenous the travel appetite is for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats in Congress. The documents which show the frequency of trips to exotic destinations would be a crushing scandal if Republicans were in charge of Congress.
But since Dems are in charge, few will say a negative word about this:
House Orders Up Three Elite Jets
By Paul Singer
August 5, 2009
Last year, lawmakers excoriated the CEOs of the Big Three automakers for traveling to Washington, D.C., by private jet to attend a hearing about a possible bailout of their companies.
But apparently Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress.
The Air Force had asked for one Gulfstream 550 jet (price tag: about $65 million) as part of an ongoing upgrade of its passenger air service.
But the House Appropriations Committee, at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials.
Because the Appropriations Committee viewed the additional aircraft as an expansion of an existing Defense Department program, it did not treat the money for two more planes as an earmark, and the legislation does not disclose which Member had requested the additional money.
Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said if Congress wants to buy new jets for the comfort of top government officials, “I think that all needs to be justified on the merits. ... Certainly, lawmakers can fly — and many do fly — coach and business class.” While there may be reasons for flying on top-notch private jets, “it shouldn’t just be squeezed into the bill.”
Ellis said the airplanes are also part of a larger trend for the Appropriations Committee to simply decide that big-ticket items are program increases, not earmarks, so they require less public disclosure.
“The more that you push for transparency, the more of this stuff goes underneath the carpet,” Ellis said. While Congress has established new rules requiring greater transparency for earmarks, the Appropriations Committee is “the judge, jury and executioner over what is an earmark and what isn’t and how much information we get.”