House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been using the Air Force as an on-call taxi service and wasting taxpayer money by erratically canceling and rescheduling flights, according to a new report.
Judicial Watch, a public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Defense and confirmed that the speaker has made multiple requests for military air travel.
While the Department of Defense staff has attempted to answer Pelosi’s numerous requests with military escorts and aircraft, her repeated last-minute rescheduling and cancellations have become a problem.
According to the report, one DOD official complained of the “hidden costs” associated with Pelosi’s erratic requests: “We have…folks prepping the jets and crews driving in (not a short drive for some), cooking meals and preflighting the jets etc.”
Another official sent an e-mail questioning a series of Pelosi’s requests for aircraft.
“Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi’s team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend?” it stated. “[T]here’s no need to block every weekend ‘just in case’…”
The e-mail noted that the speaker’s office had “a history of canceling many of their past requests.”
Judicial Watch also obtained documents concerning House Ethics rules and Defense Department policy exchanges regarding Pelosi’s wishes for staff, spouses and extended family to go along with her on military flights.
In May 2008, the speaker attempted to make arrangements for her husband to accompany her on a Congressional Delegation, or CODEL, into Iraq.
However, officials informed Pelosi that the DOD has a policy barring spouses from tagging along with CODELs in combat zones.
U.S. Army documents show requests from Pelosi for an Army escort and three military planes to fly the speaker and other lawmakers to Cleveland, Ohio, for the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones’, D-Ohio, funeral.
In an Aug. 22, 2008, letter, Pelosi called her request “Operation Tribute” and said it was an “exception to standard policy.”
According to the report, intermediaries for Pelosi have demanded that the speaker use specific aircraft. When the planes are unavailable, they often become angry.
Kay King, director of the House Office of Interparliamentary Affairs, wrote, “It is my understanding there are no G5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable … The speaker will want to know where the planes are. …”
In yet another request for unavailable planes, King wrote, “This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset [s]peaker.”
When a DOD official told King a plane couldn’t be provided due to “crew rest requirements” and offered to help make commercial travel arrangements, King replied, “We appreciate the efforts to help the codel [sic] fly commercially but you know the problem that creates with spouses. If we can find another way to assist with military assets, we would like to do that.”
In 2007, Pelosi was criticized for using a 42-seat Air Force carrier to taxi her and her staff from San Francisco, Calif., to Washington, D.C., and back.
“I want an aircraft that will reach California,” Pelosi told reporters, insisting that she wanted a plane that can fly nonstop to her home district.
Since Sept. 11, Pelosi has received what the Air Force refers to as “shuttle service,” allegedly due to concerns for security.
In recent years, Pelosi has reportedly requested a C-32 plane for her travels. The aircraft is a luxurious version of the Boeing 757-200 commercial intercontinental airliner and costs $22,000 an hour to operate.
“Taken together, these documents show that Speaker Pelosi treats the Air Force like her personal airline,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Not only does Speaker Pelosi issue unreasonable requests for military travel, but her office seems unconcerned about wasting taxpayer money with last minute cancellations and other demands.”