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Wed, Mar 11, 2009

Report: Lawmaker Using USAF As 'Personal Airline'

Do As Pelosi Says, Not As Pelosi Does?

We have to warn you: the following item probably won't surprise the more cynical members of our readership in the slightest.

Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi often requests high-end military aircraft to shuttle her from Washington, DC to her home in California, reports a conservative watchdog group... and what's more, she often demands the same perks for her family and friends.

Use of such aircraft, in and of itself, is not the problem; since the days following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it has been White House policy for the House leader to travel to his or her congressional district via military aircraft, for security reasons.

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert used a smaller C-20B (a variant of the Gulfstream III) to travel to and from his district in Illinois. In addition to smaller jets, a C-32A, C-40B and C-37A -- military variants of the Boeing 757-200 and 737-700, and Gulfstream V respectively -- are available for longer-range flights by House personnel, or for trips requiring a large entourage.

ANN reported in February 2007 about Pelosi's insistence she use the largest plane available, the C-32A, to travel from DC to her California home. Republicans sneered at "Pelosi One," though in truth most couldn't argue with her justification: that she often used the long transcontinental flight to meet with staffers, fellow colleagues, and even her family.

According to information obtained by Judicial Watch under a Freedom of Information Act request, however, it would seem that privilege is getting abused. Fox News reports the group accessed emails and other records between Pelosi staffers and USAF officials, that show Pelosi often treats the US Air Force as her "personal airline."

Those documents show numerous requests -- that frequently turned to demands -- that Defense Department officials provide high-end planes for use by Pelosi and various associates, often at the last minute. Pelosi is also reportedly notorious for requesting planes, only to cancel them at the last minute.

"It is my understanding there are NO G5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess," writes Pelosi aide Kay King in an email to DoD personnel. "This is totally unacceptable ... The Speaker will want to know where the planes are."

Another email shows the indignant from Pelosi staffers when a certain plane wasn't available. "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset Speaker," King wrote.

Given Pelosi's power to rule on DoD appropriations, that statement could perceived as a veiled threat; in any case, it's poor form, said Judicial Watch researcher Jenny Small. "I think that's above and beyond what other members of Congress are doing and what is expected of our elected officials," she said.

Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami defended the requests, saying the JW report was based on but "a few emails," and that asking for military aircraft for colleagues is a "function of the speaker's office." Elshami also stressed the Speaker is "extraordinarily appreciative" of the department's effort to accommodate her, and other members of Congress.

That may be... but keep in mind Pelosi has also been among the more vocal critics of the "abuse" of business aircraft by corporate executives in the current economic climate. Which seems just a bit incongruous...

FMI: www.house.gov/pelosi/, www.judicialwatch.org

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