clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

END THE DOUBLE STANDARD ON TRIPS

By all means, White House chief of staff John Sununu deserves the criticism he is getting for his controversial trips around the country.

But that's no excuse for the one-sidedness of the criticism, which focuses exclusively on Sununu's gaffes while ignoring similar abuses by members of Congress.Maybe that's because much of the criticism of Sununu comes from the lawmakers themselves.

A few weeks ago, Sununu embarrassed the administration by using military aircraft to travel around the country on political junkets and personal trips at the taxpayers' expense.

Now he has repeated this profligacy and insensitivity by taking a chauffeured government limousine from Washington to an auction of rare stamps in New York City, then returning on a corporate jet. It wasn't the first time he has wangled such trips from firms doing substantial business with the federal government.

How is it, though, that plenty of congressional leaders also fly the corporate skies without attracting attention, let alone controversy?

Some members of Congress routinely solicit the use of corporate jets, flying at a fraction of the cost of commercial flights. Only last Friday, The Washington Post reported, Senators Charles S. Robb of Virginia, Lloyd Bentsen of Texas and Terry Sanford of North Carolina used a Federal Express corporate jet to fly to Charlotte, N.C. Campaign expense reports also list Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole and House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt as using corporate jets more often than other congressional leaders.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, what's wrong for Sununu ought to be wrong for members of the legislative branch of government, too.

One final point: Under new regulations for the executive branch, Sununu and other officials may use corporate planes if the corporation owning the planes does not have an issue before the White House that might lead to even an appearance of impropriety. But there is no similar conflict-of-interest rule for congressional travelers.

How can this nation's lawmakers possibly excuse this double standard?