A number of viewers have asked why last night's investigative story on the use of corporate jets by members of Congress featured 6 Republicans and only one Democrat.
Our story was driven strictly by the numbers. We looked at an equal number of high-ranking Democrats and Republicans now in Congress and counted the number of flights taken on corporate jets over the last 5 years. What we found is that, among current members, the top fliers were mostly Republicans. The top three we mentioned had almost 100 flights or more. Sen. Harry Reid, the top Democrat in our survey, had 37 flights. Here are the numbers:
(1) Sen. Trent Lott = 114 flights
(2) Rep. Roy Blunt = 104 flights
(3) Rep. Oxley = 94 flights
(4) Rep. Tom DeLay = 65 flights
(5) Sen. George Allen = 39 flights
(6) Sen. Harry Reid = 37 flights
(7) Sen. Bill Frist = 34 flights
We derived these figures by checking filings by individual Senate/House members and leadership PAC records. We culled these records from the Federal Election Commission. However, because members of Congress are allowed to report so few details, the FEC records are vague and it is difficult to decipher whether flights are on corporate jets (at reduced rates) or on regular charter flights. To ensure accuracy, we provided each individual congressional office with our list of flights to make sure that they were precise.
Why are more Republicans using private jets? One reason may be that they have controlled Congress for 12 years. If Democrats had controlled Congress, I suspect we would see much higher numbers for many key Democrats than we found this time. Also, some Democrats who heavily used corporate jets--such as Sen. John Edwards--are no longer in Congress.