Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ethics Rules Bite -- So Senators Look to Change Them

In criticizing the new raft of new ethics rules proposed and adopted by the Democratic Congressional leadership this year, I've commented that those rules will have little impact on the behavior of our elected officials. One report today makes clear that there have at least been one clear effect -- the travel schedules of Senators have become more complex and difficult:

Because of new ethics rules forbidding gifts to senators, the Air Transport Association ruled that it would be a violation of the Senate's gift ban to allow senators to continue their usual practice of double- and, sometimes, triple-booking flights.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which has oversight of the issue, explained the practice this way: This week, it was unclear whether the Senate would finish Tuesday night or yesterday morning, so senators would have booked multiple flights, hedging their bets on when they could get away and paying only for the flight they took.

"The airlines have allowed us to hold these flights," Feinstein told On the Hill, explaining that it is a service that is also offered to the most frequent travelers on particular airlines -- and is, therefore, not a specific gift.

Now that Senators are required to book one flight, they may find themselves guessing wrong as to when the Senate will complete its business. When the rubber meets the road, they must miss either a vote or a flight. So how do they response? With an attempt to reverse the rule change:

Feinstein said she will soon ask the Select Committee on Ethics to issue a ruling on the matter, noting that senators weren't looking for a handout from the airlines but, rather, the best way to get home to their constituents. "It's really hard because if you can only book one flight, and you can't make that flight, then you're stuck," she said.

It's like Superman being unwilling to go around as Clark Kent anymore. Although come to think of it, he doesn't have problems with airline seating.

Update: Linked to Joyner.

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