Pelosi’s Party Plane?
Q: Has Nancy Pelosi spent $100,000 on food, booze and "partying" during her air travel?
A: No. Pelosi’s congressional delegations do eat well and drink pricey alcohol. But the costs are not as high as critics claim, and they’re comparable to those of her Republican predecessor, Dennis Hastert.
I have received e-mails with links to Web sites that report that Nancy Pelosi has spent $101,000 at taxpayers’ expense on booze and food while traveling by plane back and forth to California from Washington, D.C. I haven’t been able to find anything that debunks this. Do you know if it is true?
The conservative group Judicial Watch obtained 2,000 pages of receipts and expense reports for speaker travel under the Freedom of Information Act. The group says these demonstrate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s “boorish demands for military travel” are “more about partying than anything else.” Based on that, the conservative WorldNetDaily ran an eye-popping but inaccurate headline that said, "Taxpayers pay $101,000 for Pelosi’s in-flight ‘food, booze.’ " Claims of Pelosi’s extravagant liquor bills spread from there through any number of blogs and chain e-mails, which sometimes attribute the in-flight costs of entire delegations to Pelosi alone on her flights between Washington and her district in California.
But Judicial Watch is wrong in several respects. Our examination of the documents reveals that Judicial Watch overstated the amount of money spent on “in-flight expenses” for Pelosi’s congressional delegations, or CODELs. Furthermore, Judicial Watch, a watchdog group that describes itself as "conservative," failed to compare Pelosi’s costs with those of the previous speaker, Republican Dennis Hastert, even though the Air Force handed over documents covering CODELs that he led, as well as those led by Pelosi. And the fact is that Hastert’s travel, as represented in Judicial Watch’s own documents, was comparable to Pelosi’s.
Claim: Pelosi spent the Air Force’s money on travel provisions for herself and her family members.
Fact: Both Pelosi and Hastert CODELs billed the Air Force for some expenses. Air Force funds are never used for spouses or family members.
The general complaint from Judicial Watch and those picking up the story is that Pelosi spent Air Force money on travel, both for herself and for members of her family. This is partly true. The Air Force pays for some of what members of Congress eat and drink on CODELs — at least, as long as they’re in U.S. territory. Lt. Col. Almarah Belk of the office of the secretary of defense told us that the Air Force covers food and beverage expenses while the CODEL is on U.S. soil, and until members reach their first overseas location. After that, members of Congress reimburse the Air Force for their meals both in-flight and on the ground, either from their State Department per diem or out of pocket. Spouses’ and family members’ meals and lodgings are always reimbursed. Among the Judicial Watch documents is an accounting for each CODEL, showing how much money the Air Force laid aside in advance (often much more than the trip actually cost), how much was spent, how much was collected later, and how much was returned to the Air Force.
Claim: Pelosi spent over $100,000 on food and alcohol.
Fact: Her delegations did spend that amount, but not just on food and booze. (And Pelosi doesn’t drink.)
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