Friday, May 4, 2007

Same Gov, Same Gov

Governor Fletcher violating a law? Why I am not surprised?

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Gov. Ernie Fletcher may be required by state law to pay for his political flights on state aircraft -- despite claims by his campaign that the law doesn't address the matter. A law on the books since at least 1998 requires governors and lieutenant governors to repay the state at commercial air-charter rates for using state airplanes and helicopters for trips that are purely personal or have both official and personal aspects.

In the past three years, Fletcher has taken at least 21 trips in which he combined official business with political fundraisers -- and at least 15 times used state helicopters and airplanes for those trips -- according to an analysis of records by The Courier-Journal. Those flights cost the state more than $9,000 in fuel alone. Fletcher agreed on Friday to reimburse the state for the political portion of such trips, though his campaign maintained that he has no obligation to do so under the law.

Marty Ryall, Fletcher's campaign manager, said yesterday that the campaign's understanding of the law is based on a review by Fletcher's office of general counsel. David Fleenor, Fletcher's general counsel, said his office has interpreted the law to mean that Fletcher is required to repay the state only for trips that are purely personal, or when the personal portion of a trip requires an additional leg. Fleenor said, for example, that if Fletcher were flying to Danville for both official and political events, he wouldn't be required to pay for any portion of the flight.

But, he said, if Fletcher were flying to Danville for an official visit and then on to Somerset for a political visit, he would be assessed the cost of the flight to Somerset. Fleenor said the governor didn't fly on any trips in which there was a purely political leg. State law generally forbids the use of state aircraft for personal business. But it allows the governor and lieutenant governor to use state planes and helicopters for such trips "for reasons of security, protocol, ceremonial functions or overall demands of time."

The campaign said Friday that it would reimburse the state for the cost of the aircraft using a formula based on the number of official and campaign-related events. If there were one official event and one campaign event, for example, the campaign would pay half the cost.

Yesterday the campaign of one of Fletcher's opponents in the May 22 Republican primary, former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup, called on Fletcher to immediately identify all trips using state helicopters, airplanes and cars that have included political functions and to pay for those trips before the May 14 deadline for filing campaign finance reports. "Republicans across Kentucky know what waste, fraud and abuse is, and this is it," Northup spokesman Barry Peel said in a statement. "Give the voters an accounting."

Ryall said that the campaign hopes to make the reimbursements to the state by Friday and that Northup had no impact on the campaign's decision to repay the state, as her campaign claimed in the release. "Our plans have nothing to do with her constant negative attacks," he said.

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