Washington, D.C. – A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation to reject a Federal Election Commission regulation that would effectively gut Congress’ work to crack down on Senators accepting rides on corporate jets.  Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) introduced a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the FEC’s decision and require it to redraft the regulation.  In the regulation published in the Federal Register on December 7, the FEC undermined Congress’ decision in 2007 to make senators and presidential candidates pay the full cost of a flight on a corporate jet, rather than just the equivalent of a first class fare. The three senators were all strong supporters of cracking down on the subsidized use of corporate jets by members of Congress as part of the landmark ethics and lobbying reform bill of 2007.


“In the wake of the Abramoff scandal, the crackdown on corporate-subsidized use of private jets was a key part of Congress’ ethics and lobbying reform effort,” Senator Feingold said.  “The FEC’s recent decision to carve a loophole in that reform is outrageous.  Congress must pass this resolution and President Obama, who worked tirelessly to pass this reform when he was in the Senate, will undoubtedly sign it to reverse this terrible decision by the FEC.”


“This is just the latest in a long line of decisions by the FEC that misinterpret and undermine Congressional gift and ethics laws. When the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act passed in 2007, the intent of Congress was clear – Senators would have to reimburse the full charter rate when traveling on corporate-owned aircraft," said Senator John McCain. "The FEC’s decision is disgraceful. I hope Congress will now act swiftly to pass this resolution of disapproval.”


Senator Lieberman said: “When we passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act in 2007, we closed a major loophole that for years had allowed owners of corporate jets to avoid the strict gift limits by undervaluing the cost of flights provided to Members of Congress. The new FEC rule threatens to open up that loophole and will once again lead to the perception that Members of Congress can be influenced by the corporations and people who can offer us use of private jets. We should act now to reverse the FEC rule.”


Under the Congressional Review Act, a resolution of disapproval passed by Congress and signed by the president would make the FEC-passed regulation, including the newly created loophole in the corporate jet provision, ineffective.  The FEC would then have to issue a new regulation without the loophole.


The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) of 2007 contained new rules on personal, official, and campaign travel on non-commercial aircraft, often known as “corporate jets.”  Prior to HLOGA, members who flew on corporate jets were required to reimburse the owner of the aircraft only the amount that they would have paid to fly first class between the origin and destination of the flight.  HLOGA provided that senators and presidential candidates would have to reimburse such travel at the charter rate.  House members were prohibited from flying on non-commercial aircraft altogether.  Showing great disrespect for Congress’ intent in HLOGA, the FEC created a loophole in the statute for members’ travel on corporate jets on behalf of someone’s campaign other than their own.