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Friday, May 25, 2007
Rep. Frank responds to travel story...

Rep. Barney Frank and some colleagues took a military jet to Europe at a cost of $160,000.

Earlier this week, we ran a report on members of Congress using expensive military chartered jets for their trips abroad. The report pointed out that members of Congress could fly business class on commercial planes for a lot less money than the estimated $10,000 an hour spent on military charters.

One of the trips we reported on was Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank's trip to London and Brussels. We estimated his flight cost $160,000. He and his group of 10 could have flown commercial business class for about for $80,000. Why did he take the charter? His press officer told us on May 1st the congressman was too busy with Iraq war funding issues to talk to us, but said that the charter "made it a lot easier in terms of transportation."

We also pointed out Rep. Frank's trip apparently violated two U.S. House of Representatives rules for using a military charter: he did not include five members of Congress on his trip (required minimum is five) and he did not include any Republicans (trips must be bipartisan).

When the report aired, Rep. Frank felt CNN treated him unfairly. He had refused to sit down in front of our cameras and even canceled an interview earlier this week, but yesterday afternoon he sent us his response in writing. Here it is:


"Congressman Barney Frank, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, today released the following statement after CNN's Drew Griffin filed a recent news report on CNN's "Anderson Cooper's 360":

"CNN recently ran a report on Congressional travel which distorts the reasons and the justifications for the use of military aircraft for a recent Congressional delegation trip I led to London and Brussels. We fully complied with verbal guidance from the military and with the Speaker's January 23, 2007, memo on travel, which states that trips must be bipartisan. CNN expressly criticized me for not including Republicans on our trip. I made several efforts to ask Republican members, some personally, but no one could attend due to scheduling conflicts. In fact, invitations were extended to all Republican members of the Financial Services Committee, and the Republican leadership of the Committee designated two high level staff members to attend the trip, something CNN failed to report. The Office of Interparliamentary Affairs (OIA) advised my staff that as long as a "good faith effort" was made in asking Republicans to travel with us, the delegation could proceed. There was no attempt by me or my staff to exclude Republican members of our committee on this trip.

"Going into the last two weeks before the trip we had five Members scheduled and interest by more members, but two members dropped off for professional and personal reasons -- with one member dropping off just days before we departed. CNN never sought to talk to me about this, nor did they give me a chance to respond to people who were reportedly critical of our efforts before the report aired.

"Use of military aircraft, while limited, does give us the ability to maximize our schedule and get more done in a shorter amount of time. We flew mostly at night in order to have more meetings during the day. It also allows us to work on the aircraft to further manage the time we are spending away from home.

"I noted with interest that CNN did not report on the details of our schedule. The delegation met with government officials, legislators, trade unionists and financial firms and private firms to better understand issues related to the financial services regulatory structures of the US, the UK and the EU. The delegation focused on issues surrounding the increasing global reach of financial services on markets and what it means for the future of financial regulation. In London, the delegation held meetings with financial regulators, investors, EU Commissioner Charles McCreevey and visited with the leaderships of the London International Financial Futures Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. The delegation then continued to Brussels, Belgium, on a one day visit where they met with members of the European Parliament, the European Banking Federation, and with representatives of the international trade union community who have raised concerns about the growing role of hedge funds and private equity pools of capital. The House Financial Services Committee has jurisdiction over US securities regulation and the banking industry."
So what's next? Congress is about to begin its next rite of spring, the Memorial Day break. I'm sure the engines on those Boeing jets at Andrews Air Force Base are already warming up. We'll let you know where your tax dollars are flying this time around.


-- By Drew Griffin, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 12:58 PM ET
  12 Comments
My question for Congressman Frank would be why did he have a staffer talk for him and was he consulted about the answer before hand. Also when given the chance why didn't he respond live and in person or at least by phone. It seems that people in our government are too busy to respond to situations that involve taxpayers monies, but if someone offered them the chance to hop a transport and jet to some location on a fact finding mission they would be burning up their cell phones to get on it.

Also its about time the American people are some type of report on these junkets after all we do pay their salaries. Keep on them Drew we have a right to know how our taxpayer dollars are being spent.
Posted By Marcia, Warren Mi : 1:56 PM ET
Drew,

I think you just got crossed off Barney Frank's Christmas card list. You probably won't get a calendar next year either.

Keep up the good work.
Posted By Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 2:06 PM ET
What does what you do once you get there have anything to do with the issue of the money spent in getting there? Couldn't you accomplish the same tasks or mission using commercial planes? I wasn't there on the plane, but I find it hard to believe that you guys had an all-night meeting on the military plane for which you pointed out the reason you needed a military plane (a 5-minute gathering doesn't count as a meeting).

OK, let's assume you didn't break any law, and that you did everything by the book. When people start to cancel the trip or there weren't many of you going, would you have done the same if the money is coming from your own pocket and not the taxpayers'? Probably not.

Was your schedule so tight that you need to fly night time, thus, requiring to use a military plane? What was in this schedule that justifies a $160,000 trip? Was there an opportunity cost flying commercial during the day or if you were to arrive a day late?

Finally, although you mention this, does anyone on this trip have some kind of serious health issues that require personalized meal menus?

Sorry Congressman, I'm not sold based on your letter. I'd probably buy it if it were for security reason, i.e., flying commercial has no security protection.
Posted By Jason P., Houston, TX : 2:18 PM ET
~~Barney: BALONEY!! Hogwash! I can feel the "hot air" all the way out here in California!! He says CNN did not attempt to talk to him... He canceled the interview, dummy! Buncha politico bull! We REALLY need to do like the French Revolution and behead our corrupt, greedy, self-serving politicians to get their attention and change their behavior.
Posted By Cynthia, Santa Monica, CA : 3:16 PM ET
Since we (the taxpayers) are paying for these trips, do you think they could provide us with the actual trip report detailing out the trip rather than a letter to CNN?

I'm glad they at least had some type of agenda for these trips but did I miss something, was anything actually accomplished? Did we solve any issues here? Afterall, using military aircraft is supposedly giving them the ability to do more in less time right? I'm not sure I'm seeing the benefit here.
Posted By Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 3:25 PM ET
Drew/AC360:
Sorry, it is hard for me to swallow Rep. Barney Frank's $160,000 trip to Europe.

The savings of flying commercial ($80,000) could have fed many meals to the homeless, or bought drywall supplies for Katrina victims, or saved a few lives in Darfur from the military assassins in Africa.

It could have helped open a group home for autistic adults, or provided aid to pay medical costs for uninsured families facing a catastrophic illness or injury.

Eighty grand could have gone to research for breast cancer, or to fighting the global AIDS epidemic, or given a senior citizen reasonably-priced prescriptions to ensure a better quality of life.

Eighty thousand dollars could have been spent on commercial flights and stimulated the economy by investing in airlines faced with sky rocketing fuel prices and bankruptcy.

Eighty big ones could have sent thousands of kids to camp this summer, or planted new trees to replenish a barren forest, or provided grants for college students facing fee hikes.

Enough said.
Posted By Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 3:42 PM ET
Poor Barney. He got caught and is now trying to kill the messenger. American politics and the creeps that inhabit the system are disgusting. To quote Al Franken, "Lying liars..."
Posted By A. Roy Olson, Tucson AZ : 3:57 PM ET
Lame excuse.
Posted By Em, Toronto, Ontario, Canada : 4:10 PM ET
Hey Drew,
It took Rep. Barney Frank all week to come up with that? Back to the drawing board!
Where will they go this memorial day week~end? Perhaps a trip to Hawaii to visit the Peral Harbor Memoral?
I think they should head to Greenland with Anderson to see what global warming is doing to our planet!
Keep us posted and keep congressional representatives honest!
Good work Drew~
Posted By Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX : 5:03 PM ET
I have a hard time believing any of this balderdash. Same ol'song, just a new verse. This group of elected officals, both Rep/Dem, still haven't learned anything from the mass cleansing of the Congress, 1st w/Rep, oops that didn't work, so clean'em out & send in the Dem, oops again, Congress right now has a lower approval rating than the President!
What will it take for this bunch to wake up & be accountable?? Remember the movie "DAVE"? All the evil guys were sent packing & a honest man became President. Maybe we should mass mail copies to all our Representative's, I'm just sick of the excuse's & finger pointing, who in DC is going to say the buck stops here?
Posted By Katie, Garland TX : 5:07 PM ET
Drew,

Only $300 a month is all my sister needs to be able to pay for the expenses at the house since her husband was diagnosed with cancer and her income is the only one they are living off by. She is trying to find another part time job besides her full time as a bank teller and taking care of her husband. I'm sure that she is not the only one trying to make a decent living to provide for herself and her family.
It is very sad to know that these things are actually going on in our world, with our money!!! And these selfish people are able to get away with this crap!!!
Are these people really able to sleep with a clear conscious at night?? They probably are!!!!
Thanks for keeping them honest, great work!!!
Posted By veronica, paramount, CA : 5:24 PM ET
Yeah, sounds about right, no money for vets, no cash for homeless and damn the uninsured people in this country...politicians must travel like Gods!
Posted By hibby : 12:37 AM ET
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