Reid, Boxer flying high on Feinstein's private jet
Hey, who wouldn't like to travel by private jet? It's a treat few of us get to enjoy, including members of Congress.
Financial disclosure forms released Wednesday show that Sen. Dianne Feinstein let Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Barbara Boxer hitch a ride Christmas Eve on her private plane after they had trouble booking commercial flights because of a blizzard, reports our colleague Paul Kane.
Stuck in D.C. by the health-care vote, the senators and Feinstein's husband, investor Richard Blum, headed to San Francisco in his Gulfstream jet. Reid and Boxer, according to the disclosure forms, accepted the flight as a gift and valued it at $3,625 after consulting the ethics staff. Reid then headed to Reno on a commercial flight to join his family for Christmas.
Sweet, huh? Especially since flying on private aircraft is all but banned due to revised ethics rules.
"There are personal friendship exceptions for both House and Senate," said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center. "Is it logical to conclude these three are friends? Yes, I think it is."
In 2007, Congress tightened the rules on private flights to restrict lobbyists and corporations from dangling free travel at lawmakers, and vice versa -- former Illinois senator Alan Dixon was notorious for mooching free corporate flights, said McGehee. "The rules that are in place are meant to ensure that special interests don't have a leg up."
But family and longtime friends can still offer a nonstop flight-- a treat for most of the millionaires on Capitol Hill.
"Most members of Congress don't typically own jets or have spouses who own private jets," said Dave Levinthal, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. "At the very least, it's quite nice to have friends in Congress who do. Beats the middle seat on a Delta red-eye."
The Reliable Source
June 17, 2010; 1:05 AM ET
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