CBS — of all places — has a long piece on Nancy Pelosi’s taxpayer-funded travel habits.
From her first month in office, even before the Feb. 7, 2007 policy guidance from the military, records indicate Pelosi began extending the perk of the Speaker Shuttle to Democratic colleagues. By March 15, 2007 Pelosi had invited members of Congress Mike Thompson, Barbara Lee (pictured), Anna Eshoo, George Miller, Ellen Tauscher and Jerry McNerney, all Democrats from California, to hitch rides with her on various Speaker Shuttle flights — some multiple times.
Records indicate Pelosi was the first to use routinely invite fellow members of Congress aboard the Speaker Shuttle. Yet the issue of whether the extra passengers would pay for the rides, and if so, how much; hadn’t been agreed upon. That was addressed in an email exchange between military officials and the Speaker’s Counsel in March of 2007.
“The equitable rate” of reimbursement, says Pelosi’s Counsel Bernard Raimo, “seems to be what the Member would pay for a similar coach flight at the government rate.”
[Judicial Watch's Tom] Fitton, the conservative watchdog, argues it’s inappropriate for the speaker to hand out first-class travel perks to favored colleagues who merely pay the price of a government coach fare. “Reimbursing the military or the government at the commercial rate does not nearly cover the costs, which are exponentially greater than any commercial ticket,” Fitton said.
When asked to respond, Pelosi’s spokesman told us it’s the military that sets the rate for reimbursement. Yet the March 2007 email exchanges put the decision squarely in the speaker’s hands. “Please advise us of your final decision,” says the military official. “We’ll go with the government rate,” answers Speaker Counsel Raimo.
Since then, records indicate the Congressional passenger list on the Speaker Shuttle has grown to also include from time-to-time Zoe Lofgren, Sam Farr, Lynn Woolsey, Jackie Speier and John Garamendi; all Democrats from California.
And then there is family:
According to available records, Pelosi began inviting her family members aboard the Speaker Shuttle less than two months after she became Speaker. Like Hastert, she often takes her spouse (with no reimbursement required). She also extends the privilege to other family members. Listed among the passengers on a Feb. 22, 2007 flight from San Francisco to Washington D.C. are husband Paul Pelosi, daughter Christine and son Paul.
A little more than a month later, an internal military email exchange makes it clear that Pelosi’s family travel was not a one-time occurrence. Nor was it isolated to her husband and grown children.
“Speaker wants to put the following on her flight from SFO (San Francisco) to Andrews (Air Force Base),” says the April 2, 2007 email. “Daughter, son-in-law, infant grandson… Who authorizes the son-in-law and infant grandson?”
After some discussion, the military agreed to the extra passengers but noted, “Believe it is prudent policy for us to ask for reimbursement for all her travelling companions.” Available records do not show individual reimbursement rates. Pelosi’s office says her family members comply with all reimbursement rules, which require the equivalent of a commercial coach air fare.
Being the speaker of the most ethical Congress in history (does she have that trademarked?), it would have been a good idea to get this sorted out early and transparently. What’s most clear from this piece is that the speaker’s office seems to have had very little interest in doing that.
In fact, when her plane-upgrade request became an issue in February, she did the opposite. She confused the issue more by arguing that it was sexist to not give her a plane that wouldn’t have to refuel. I suppose it all makes more sense now, though — she didn’t want to have her family and friends waiting.
I don’t think too many taxpayers reading the story will be all that empathetic.