The Federal Election Commission approved new rules on Thursday that limit how Congressional campaigns use private and corporate jets.
The new regulations restrict and in some situations prohibit federal candidates from spending campaign funds for noncommercial air travel. The new rules were designed to remove the influence that some special interests have on lawmakers, and they coincide with the provisions of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007.
The new rules, passed on a 4-2 vote, bar House campaigns and Members political action committees from using their funds to travel on noncommercial flights unless it is using government- or family-owned aircraft. Presidential, vice presidential and Senate campaigns have to pay charter rates for such flights, which cost significantly more than these campaigns previously paid.
These regulations, enacted more than two years after the passage of the act, differ from previous rules where candidates could use corporate jets from organizations that lobbied them and only pay the cost of a first-class or coach plane ticket. The new regulations did not change this rule for PACs connected to candidates for the Senate and White House as well as party committees. These leadership PACs can still pay the lower rate of a typical plane ticket for their travel on private aircraft.
Commissioners passed the new rules after disagreeing in a 3-3 vote on whether to adopt more restrictive regulations. The agency had originally approved tougher rules at the end of 2007, but half of todays six-person commission rejected those regulations, along party lines.
FEC Chairman Steven Walther a self-described independent who occupies a Democratic seat on the panel supported the tougher regulations but finally stepped in to break up the tie on the following vote and support the Republican-backed rules.
If we deadlocked on this, it would not be providing guidance in the area, he said. I think the rules that were adopted before were the right rules but I cannot say that the motion before us does not adhere to the act.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.