Roll Call: Private Plane Rides Have Bumpy Congressional History
“The abuses this was responding to were not theoretical,” said Meredith McGehee, of the Campaign Legal Center. Abramoff lavished members of Congress with access to private jets. At the time, members hoped to avoid the public outrage caused when former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, hitched a ride on a tobacco company’s private jet to a court appearance.
“The dangers are grave because the benefits are so valued,” McGehee said. “Time is valuable. It’s just a very valuable thing.” Such flights provide a great opportunity for the very select class of people that can afford to own a private airplane to win goodwill and some face time with members, she explained.
In a reverse dynamic, the late Sen. Alan Dixon, D-Ill., had a reputation for soliciting free flights, McGehee said.
“A lot of times I think people forget it’s not just about the outside interest trying to buy access for influence, it’s also about the shakedown,” she said.