Political donations to Nunes used for $5K in private jet travel: complaint

Political donations to Nunes used for $5K in private jet travel: complaint
© Getty Images

Political donations to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) were improperly used to cover $5,518 in private jet travel, according to a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by a campaign watchdog group. 

The Fresno Bee reports that public filings show New PAC, a Republican leadership PAC, paid $11,036 to Paramount Business Jets on March 7. Nunes sponsors the PAC, which was refunded $5,518 on May 18 due to overpayment, it added.

According to its company website, Paramount Business Jets offers “private jet flights to and from any major city in the world, in any size aircraft with as little as 4 hours of notice.”

The Bee noted that it is illegal for leadership PAC money, which is used by congressional members to donate funds to other political candidates, to be applied to noncommercial air travel.

The complaint was filed by Campaign Legal Center.

A spokesman for the FEC said that political candidates can use leadership PAC money for chartering private jets through a company that is set up to meet that specific purpose, but also added that political candidates would be required to pay market rates.

Myles Martin said in those specific cases, chartering a private jet can be classified as commercial air travel.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The law concerning this was mainly set up to prevent candidates from using a corporation’s private jet, or that of a wealthy donor,” Martin said, while also noting that political candidates typically get “wide discretion” in their use of leadership PAC money, as such complaints are rare.

However, Dan Weiner, former senior counsel to an FEC commissioner, told the Bee that any case of a leadership PAC chartering private flights is a “clear illegal use” under the terms of the 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.

“There are relatively few areas of campaign finance law that is a bright line, but in the case of private jets it is a clear violation,” Weiner said.

Anthony Ratekin, Nunes’s chief of staff, said the Bee, which previously reported the GOP lawmaker’s use of $15,000 in political donations on Boston Celtics tickets, winery tours and trips to Las Vegas earlier this month, and the local media in the California Republican’s district “should apologize to the congressman and stop embarrassing themselves.”

“McClatchy and The Fresno Bee are reliably printing multiple unsubstantiated hit pieces against Rep. Nunes every week based on false information put out by left-wing interest groups, and this will undoubtedly continue through the election,” Ratekin said.