Congress Flies Into Action to Save Perk

By Justin Rood

Oct 1, 2007 9:06am

Lawmakers from both parties are rushing to reinstate a perk they once enjoyed: the power to book multiple flights out of Washington, D.C., but only pay for the one they use. The informal arrangement was said to accommodate lawmakers’ erratic schedules. Last-minute business on Capitol Hill can keep Congress in session, delaying lawmakers’ trips home from late one evening to early the next morning. Some airlines offer a similar perk to loyal fliers, but most do not. Two weeks ago, an airline lobby group determined the perk appeared to be a violation of the gift ban that was part of the new congressional ethics law. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Blotter Did Dems Cut a Hole in Their Own Ethics Law? Blotter Budget Shortfall May Shutter White House Probe Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Airlines "could do for members of Congress what they would do for their best passengers — but not more than that," explained David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, which made the determination. Now, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Robert Bennett, R-Utah, are pressing a Senate panel to act and officially reinstate the perk, their offices confirmed. By issuing its own interpretation that the ethics law does not apply to the multi-booking perk, the Senate Ethics Committee would reassure lawyers at the Air Transport Association. Some Hill watchers are nonplussed by the flap.  "Quite frankly, it sounds like lobbyists for the ATA are trying to ridicule the new ethics rules," said Craig Holman, an expert with the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group Public Citizen. Holman said he found ATA’s determination "absurd." Castelveter demurred. "We’re in the process of trying to understand, on behalf of our members, what the new rules mean," he said. The spokesman noted that under the old ethics rules, lawmakers were held liable if the law was broken, but under the new rules, signed into law in July, the airlines would be held liable. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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