By LIZ RUSKIN
Anchorage Daily News
March 13, 2006
Federal Express, Union Pacific and the tobacco company UST are among the corporations that have let Young use their executive aircraft, according to a report by PoliticalMoneyLine.com.
With 31 campaign-related flights on private jets since 2001, Young is in third place among House members.
"We have events and campaign all over the country," said Young's campaign manager, Steve Dougherty. "We just want to maximize his time."
Using corporate aircraft is more convenient to Young's tight schedule and sometimes allows him to fly to smaller airports nearer his campaign events, Dougherty said.
Corporate-jet use is one of several congressional perks that lawmakers are reconsidering in light of recent lobbying scandals.
Senators voted Wednesday to prohibit lobbyists from buying them meals or drinks. They are still working on the bill the meal ban was added to. It would require more trip disclosures, but senators rejected a Democratic amendment that would have banned virtually all privately funded travel.
Critics, including some senators who have enjoyed the benefit themselves, say current rules let lawmakers pay a mere fraction of the true price of hiring a Learjet or Gulfstream.
"We are required to reimburse the equivalent of a first-class ticket. That's the rule, and we follow it diligently," Dougherty said.
Young - actually, his re-election campaign or his political action committee - has paid $83,000 for the 31 flights documented in the PoliticalMoneyLine report.
But travel by chartered jet would cost the average person much more than the price of a first-class airline ticket, said Craig Holman, a campaign finance lobbyist for the nonpartisan group Public Citizen.
And it's worth more, too. Charter flights allow Congress members to skip much of the hassle and wait associated with airline trips, he said.
"Many members cherish just the luxury and sheer status of a private jet," Holman said.
The companies, he said, get a lot out of it, too: hours alone with a senator or representative.
"The corporations aren't just doing this out of altruistic motives," he said. "They've got their lobbyists and CEOs there, sitting on the plane with him, one-on-one."
Federal Express has loaned an executive jet to Young eight times, according to PoliticalMoneyLine's count, which doesn't include trips funded from his House office budget.
PoliticalMoneyLine is a for-profit Web site that analyzes campaign finance reports and other disclosures lawmakers are required to make.
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
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