Should the Military Help Members of Congress Go to the Detroit Auto Show?

Judicial Watch took the lead in exposing former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) abuse of military aircraft. The massive amount of press coverage resulting from our investigation not only led to a great deal of embarrassment for Pelosi, but it also prompted current House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to announce he would fly commercial between his home district and Washington, DC. Unfortunately, however, according to a new batch of documents we recently uncovered from the United States Air Force, the abuse of military resources continued in 2010, not only by Pelosi, but by other members of Congress as well.


The records, which include flight manifests, expense summaries, copies of receipts and Congressional correspondence, detail a number of trips made by Speaker Pelosi and other Members of Congress in 2010, including:

  • A May 6-10, 2010, Congressional Delegation to Afghanistan and Germany “to discuss issues of mutual interest in Qatar and Afghanistan, as well as conduct oversight on women’s issues (troops) in Afghanistan and to visit with US troops and meet with government officials in Germany.” The total cost of military travel was $204,135.00. The records indicate then-Speaker Pelosi made a personal request that the "maximum per diem allowance be made available at the enhanced rate of an additional $50.”

  • Numerous trips made by Speaker Pelosi between San Francisco and Andrews Air Force Base. Several of these trips included members of Speaker Pelosi’s family, including her husband, daughter, granddaughters and son-in law. For example, one “Staff Summary Sheet” detailing a January 4, 2010, flight from San Francisco to Andrews Air Force Base notes that Pelosi’s daughter, Christina, owes for $99.00 (flight) and $7.82 (meal). The documents suggest the Speaker’s office was billed for the fees but do not indicate whether or not the bills were paid.

  • A January 7-11, 2010, Congressional Delegation to Detroit, Michigan for the expressed purpose of reviewing “the impact of congressional appropriations and policy in promoting innovation, technological development and job creation in US auto industry.” The Detroit trip required $24,336.60 in commercial air travel and an additional $10,046.87 in expenses. The Pentagon paid for military escorts for the trip.

  • One document notes that the mode of transportation for the trip would be “Comair and Milair,” (commercial air travel and military air travel). However, the only cost related to the military portion of the transportation detailed in the records is a $15,000 advance secured for ground transportation, meals and lodging. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) drove himself to Detroit and sought $228 in mileage reimbursement. A total of 25 House members (16 Democrats, 8 Republicans), led by then-Speaker Pelosi and then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), were on the list of trip participants.


Overall, according to documents we uncovered in January 2011, Pelosi used the Air Force aircraft for a total of 43 trips, covering 90,155 miles, from January 1 through October 1, 2010. (These documents provide some additional detail regarding the specific trips.) We continue to pursue other records related to Pelosi’s use of Air Force aircraft through the Freedom of Information Act. (Notwithstanding the Speaker’s announcement, we have also initiated a separate investigation into travel since Republicans took control of the House.)



I haven’t covered the Pelosi travel scandal in quite a while, so let’s take a second to review some of what we uncovered previously regarding the former Speaker’s abuse of Air Force aircraft.

According to previous documents we uncovered, the former Speaker’s military travel cost the United States Air Force $2,100,744.59 over a two-year period — $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol. For example, purchases for one Pelosi-led congressional delegation traveling from Washington, DC, through Tel Aviv, Israel to Baghdad, Iraq May 15-20, 2008, included: Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey’s Irish Crème, Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewars scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey, Corona beer and several bottles of wine.

Judicial Watch also previously uncovered internal Department of Defense (DOD) email correspondence detailing attempts by DOD staff to accommodate Pelosi’s numerous requests for military escorts and military aircraft as well as the speaker’s last minute cancellations and changes.

For example, 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.”

We also obtained emails that show the Pentagon worked hand-in-hand with congressional offices prior to releasing documents regarding congressional military travel under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). These “heads up” emails involved FOIA requests filed by Judicial Watch, The Wall Street Journal, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call, among other organizations, related to the use of military aircraft by a number of congressional members, including Pelosi.

All of these documents, including the most recent batch, document Speaker Pelosi’s shameless abuse of military aircraft during her tenure as House Speaker. Certainly her providing sweetheart travel deals for her adult children is an abuse of her high public office. But this scandal goes beyond Speaker Pelosi, as the massive Detroit Auto Show junket shows.

Members of the House are able to obtain permission from the Office of the Speaker for the use of military luxury and military-supported travel for congressional delegation trips. These trips, known as CODELs, have exploded in number and cost. Speaker Boehner needs to reform this abuse of our military’s assets.

For all the recent talk about corporate luxury jets here in Washington, the American people might be surprised to learn the Air Force has an entire wing of luxury jets (in addition to President Obama’s Air Force One planes) for the use of congressmen and top administration officials.

It has to stop. We appreciate that Speaker Boehner is now flying commercial. Nevertheless, Judicial Watch has initiated a separate investigation into congressional travel since Republicans took control of the House.

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