What about the $200,000,000.00 for 3 new Gulfstreams!?
Cut the Raptor so the pricks can get their plush private jets!
In these tough times, everyone's cutting back on travel expenses. Everyone, except maybe Congress. Your lawmakers just signed off on buying three new Gulfstream jets. CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that we're talking about a $200 million price tag.
Two hundred million dollars used to sound like a lot of money. Though in these days of billion dollar bailouts, it's not quite as dramatic. But that's how much members of Congress, who preside over an economy every bit as shaky as the companies they're bailing out, have decided to spend for their own comfort and convenience.
The corporate jet touching down Wednesday night at the old Palwaukee, now Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling, is one of dozens in and out every day; though operations here are down 25 percent this year.
In one hangar alone, more than $60 million worth of aircraft, owned by a well-known Chicago corporation, sits idle far more of the time this year than in the past. The reason?
"When average working people see an executive using an airplane, and they hear Congress and the president talking about the fat cats, you become one and the same," said Charles Priester of Priester Aviation.
Remember the congressional hearing where auto execs flew in on their corporate jets to beg for bailouts?
"It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in a high hat and tuxedo," said New York Rep. Gary Ackerman in November 2008.
Pretty tough talk from lawmakers who we've now learned have just authorized buying three of these $65 million Gulfstream 550 jets to fly them and other government officials around the country and the world. Each carries between 10 and 15 people, and can fly non-stop to China.
"It's a double standard," Priester said. "It's an absolute double standard."
Priester is diplomatic. He still believes private aircrafts are good for business and government when used properly to help executives be more efficient.
Others we spoke with feel congressmen were out of line.
"It's crazy, it's ridiculous," one woman said. "They get away with too many things."
"We're in a recession and they want to buy jet planes?" a man said.
"So many people are suffering and in poverty, so many people have been laid off, I don't understand it," said Chicagoan Tolu Babalola.
"Why can't they fly coach like everybody else? Or maybe business class," one man said.
Chicago area congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Mark Kirk are members of the committee which approved the purchase. Jackson didn't return repeated phone calls asking about the planes. Mark Kirk did, telling us the planes were hidden earmarks he never knew about.
"Number one, I think it violated the rules of the House to do it," Kirk said. "Number two, Congress does not need a new expensive set of executive jets, and number three, when we meet again as a committee, I will offer the amendment to rescind this money."
It appears the planes were secretly inserted into the bill by two congressmen from Georgia, a Democrat and a Republican, who took the Pentagon's request for one new plane to be used in Africa, added two more, and required they be based in Washington, D.C.