Taxpayers on hook
for Wellstone rally

By WND Staff

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A memorial service for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, that some say more closely resembled a political rally, has raised questions as to whether or not taxpayers should be reimbursed for the cost of flying a large delegation of mostly Democratic congressmen, senators and their spouses and staffs from Washington, D.C., to Minnesota aboard U.S. Air Force jets, according to a report in Insight magazine.

According to Pentagon sources, the Air Force supplied two C-32 aircraft, the military equivalent of the Boeing 757, and one C-9, the military equivalent of a McDonnell Douglas DC-9.

According to the Insight report, the cost to taxpayers of the congressional flights, with crew, was approximately $119,961.

A 1964 Department of Defense directive authorizes the use of military aircraft for official business of Congress, or to attend the funeral of a sitting member, only if a request is made to the ”secretary of defense by the president of the Senate, the speaker of the House or their designated representatives.”

A spokesman for Vice President Dick Cheney, constitutionally designated as the president of the Senate, says Cheney made no request of the secretary of defense for military support to transport the congressional delegation to the Wellstone memorial.

A spokesman for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., confirmed that Hastert made no such request either, according to the Insight report.

The political memorial for Wellstone was attended by Democratic Party activists and luminaries from all over the country, including former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., former Vice President Al Gore, former Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey (who was appointed to the ballot in his state when the incumbent Democrat was caught up in a bribery scandal) and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who will replace Wellstone on the ballot for next Tuesday’s election.

According to the Insight report, the arena crowd of 15,000 cheered remarks by Wellstone’s son David, who said, ”We all know what we have to do.”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Rick Kahn, a close friend and Wellstone campaign treasurer, ”shifted the tone of the event from a memorial service to full-throated, foot-stomping, fist-pumping political rally.”

The paper reported Kahn told the crowd: ”We are begging you to help us win this Senate election for Paul Wellstone,” and called on the rallying Democrats and others to ”help us win this race.”

KARE-TV, the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis, reported viewers were outraged, saying what began as a poignant farewell turned into a political rally for national Democrats.

The station reported receiving more than 100 telephone calls complaining about the coverage.

According to the Insight report, uniformed members of the U.S. Marine Corps were also used as escorts for those attending the event and may have also provided ground transportation.

Sources say the delegation that left Andrews Air Force base yesterday for Minneapolis, and returned late last night, was comprised of an unknown number of senators, 11 members of the House of Representatives and ”some spouses and staff members.”

The total came to 120 people.

Aboard the return flight to Washington, one senator reportedly called the event ”a damned political rally.”

According to the Insight report, another shrugged, ”Well, that was fitting for Wellstone. He always went up to the line – and jumped over it.”

Related story:

Was Wellstone assassinated?

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