Judicial Watch • “Air Pelosi” Scandal

“Air Pelosi” Scandal

“Air Pelosi” Scandal

MARCH 13, 2009


March 13, 2009


From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:

Judicial Watch Uncovers Documents Detailing Pelosi’s Repeated Requests for Military Travel

New documents uncovered by Judicial Watch suggest House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been treating the Air Force like her own personal airline. This discovery has led to a barrage of news coverage. The Pelosi documents were a lead story on The Drudge Report for two days straight, while I conducted a number of television interviews, including CNN and Fox News.

We obtained the documents through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). They include internal Pentagon email correspondence detailing attempts by Pentagon staff struggling to accommodate Pelosi’s numerous requests for military escorts and military aircraft as well as the speaker’s 11th hour cancellations and changes.

Here are a few highlights from the documents. (You can read them in full by clicking here.)

  • In response to a series of requests for military aircraft, one Defense Department official wrote, "Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi’s team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend?…[T]here’s no need to block every weekend ‘just in case’…" The email also notes that Pelosi’s office had, "a history of canceling many of their past requests."
  • One Pentagon official complained about the "hidden costs" associated with the speaker’s last minute changes and cancellations. "We have…folks prepping the jets and crews driving in (not a short drive for some), cooking meals and preflighting the jets etc."
  • The documents include a discussion of House Ethics rules and Defense Department policies as they apply to the speaker’s requests for staff, spouses and extended family to accompany her on military aircraft. In May 2008, for example, Pelosi requested that her husband join her on a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) into Iraq. The Pentagon explained to Pelosi that the agency has a written policy prohibiting spouses from joining CODEL’s into combat zones.
  • Documents obtained from the U.S. Army include correspondence from Speaker Pelosi’s office requesting an Army escort and three military planes to transport Pelosi and other members of Congress to Cleveland, Ohio, for the funeral services of the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones. Pelosi noted in her letter of August 22, 2008, that such a request, labeled "Operation Tribute" was an "exception to standard policy."
  • The documents also detail correspondence from intermediaries for Speaker Pelosi issuing demands for certain aircraft and expressing outrage when requested military planes were not available. "It is my understanding there are no G5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable…The speaker will want to know where the planes are…" wrote Kay King, Director of the House Office of Interparliamentary Affairs. In a separate email, when told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, King writes, "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset [s]peaker."
  • During another email exchange Pentagon staff advised Kay King that one Pelosi military aircraft request could not be met because of "crew rest requirements" and offered to help secure commercial travel. Kay King responded: "We appreciate the efforts to help the codel [sic] fly commercially but you know the problem that creates with spouses. If we can find another way to assist with military assets, we would like to do that."

Honestly, can you believe the arrogance? These emails reek of entitlement and privilege. And they show Pelosi’s office is oblivious about wasting taxpayer money with last minute cancellations and other demands. This is no way to treat our nation’s military.

Of course, this is not the first time Pelosi has been under fire for her military travel requests.

In 2007, the speaker was hammered in the press for requesting a 42-seat Air Force carrier to ferry her and her staff back and forth between San Francisco, CA and Washington, DC. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, by comparison, was allowed access to a 12-seat commuter jet for security reasons after the events of 9/11.

Contrary to what some reports in the media suggest, we found that Pelosi used military jets twice as much in two years as Hastert did in three years.

We’re experiencing the usual attacks from the usual suspects on the Left. But in the end, the documents speak for themselves.

I’m proud of what Judicial Watch was able to accomplish with this document release. And I thank those of you whose financial support make this and all our other anti-corruption work possible.

Judicial Watch Obtains Grand Jury Subpoenas Related to Federal Investigation of Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich – White House Advisers Listed

On the heels of Judicial Watch’s Pelosi document release, which ignited a media firestorm this week, Judicial Watch uncovered another set of documents that ought to gain interest. They relate to connections between the Obama White House and impeached former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was removed from office in January for trying to "sell" Obama’s senate seat, among other notable transgressions.

This week, as a result of an Illinois Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, we obtained a number of documents from Blagojevich’s office related to federal investigations involving the former governor, including federal grand jury subpoenas. And you’re never going to guess who’s listed on these subpoenas: Obama White House advisors and other notable people connected to the national Democratic Party!

Here are just a few of the key names. You can check out all of the subpoenas for yourself by clicking here:

  • Valerie Jarrett: Once labeled "the other side of Barack Obama’s brain" by CBS news, Jarrett remains a close advisor to President Obama. Obama recently tapped Jarrett to chair his newly formed White House Council on Women and Girls. Jarrett was widely rumored to be a candidate to take over Obama’s senate seat.
  • David Axelrod: Axelrod, Obama’s top campaign strategist, now serves as a senior White House advisor. During the campaign, when asked about the search for a replacement for Obama’s Senate seat, Axelrod told Fox News Chicago, "I know [Obama has] talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them." He later retracted the statement.
  • David Wilhelm: Wilhelm, a former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and campaign strategist for Bill Clinton, served as an informal advisor to the Obama campaign. He was also a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
  • J.B. Pritzker: Obama named Mr. Pritzker’s sister, Penny, to serve on his recently formed 15-member Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Penny Pritzker previously served as the Obama campaign’s National Finance Chair.

We filed our initial FOIA request all the way back on November 27, 2006, well before news broke of Blagojevich’s scheme to put Obama’s senate seat on the open market. Blagojevich’s office at first claimed the subpoenas were exempt from disclosure, dlambro@washingtontimes.comforcing us to file a lawsuit on January 16, 2007 in the Cook County Illinois Circuit Court. Governor Pat Quinn’s office finally released the grand jury subpoenas on March 4, 2009.

You may recall, in January 2009, Judicial Watch obtained a separate set of documents specifically regarding Blagojevich’s contacts with President Obama and his transition team. The documents include a December 3, 2008 letter from Barack Obama following a December 2, 2008 meeting with Blagojevich as well as a November 17, 2008 letter signed by former Presidential Transition Team co-chairs Valerie Jarrett and John Podesta providing Blagojevich with a list of transition team contacts.

Judicial Watch Litigation Director Paul Orfanedes also testified to the 21-member Special Investigative Committee that recommended Blagojevich’s impeachment to the Illinois House of Representatives.

From the outset, the Obama team has refused to substantively discuss any connections to former Governor Blagojevich and the crimes that led to his impeachment. We now have independent confirmation that top Obama White House officials are caught up in a federal grand jury investigation.

Of course, it would be helpful if President Obama kept his promises of transparency and finally released all documents related to this scandal. We don’t expect that to happen. So we’re going to keep battling to find out as much as we can — with or without help from the Obama White House.

A New Ethics War Brewing in Congress? Don’t count on it…

Politico posted an article this week talking about a new "ethics war" brewing in Congress. The point of the piece was that House Republicans are turning up the heat on Democrats by requesting an ethics probe into the relationship between earmarks and campaign contributions – a not-so-subtle jab at leading Democrats such as John Murtha, under fire for his relationship with PMA Group, "a lobby shop raided by federal authorities last year."

It’s also a shot at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who filed a dozen resolutions calling for investigations into a number of Republicans when she was in the minority.

But here’s a squib from the article that I found most interesting:

The Republicans have stopped short of filing formal complaints against any Democratic member — a move that would require a response by the House ethics committee.

Republicans say they don’t want to ignite a full-blown ethics war like the one that dominated the House in the 1990s, but there’s another cause for their caution: If they were to file a complaint against Murtha or anyone else, Democrats would retaliate by filing their own complaints against Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and Don Young (R-Alaska).

Because of this threat of mutually assured destruction, no member has filed a formal ethics complaint against another member since Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas) did it to DeLay in 2004 — and he did so only after it was clear that he wouldn’t be returning to Congress.

Not one ethics complaint filed by a member in five years! In other words, nothing has really changed. As long as Members of Congress are willing to protect each other (and only use "ethics" to score political points), we will never see any real attempt to hold corrupt members from either party accountable.

And whatever happened to the congressional ethics reform promised by Democrats during the 2006 election cycle? You may recall I testified before a House special task force in 2007 to give my recommendations for the most effective way to clean up corruption in Congress. I was worried at the time that any reforms that made it through Congress would be too watered down to be effective. I was right to be worried. There has been no meaningful ethics reform. Republicans don’t want the rules enforced. And neither do Democrats.

The bottom line is this: As long as citizens and outside groups (like Judicial Watch) are prohibited from filing ethics complaints against corrupt members of Congress there will be no true ethics enforcement – no matter which party controls Congress.

Until next week…

Tom Fitton
President

Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation’s public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts, click here.


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