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High Flying Legislators Defend Luxury Travel

August 3, 2009

Yesterday we discussed a few Florida legislators’ decision to spend taxpayer dollars on private flights on aircraft owned by lobbyists and political donors. Today, two of those legislators’ tried to defend their choices. We believe it’s indefensible, but we’ll let you be the judge.

Today’s Bradenton Herald reported the following rationalizations:

State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota, who was listed among the state’s “top five private fliers” in a report by the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times last week, defended her choice of transportation, saying the “little rattletraps” she chartered with three others were hardly luxurious.

Of course, Sen. Detert leaves out a key fact. The company which charters flights for Sen. Detert and three others is Dolphin Aviation, which has contributed heavily to the election campaigns of all four legislators. Obviously, this raises serious questions of propriety.

Additionally, the picture of two private jets above is from Dolphin Aviation’s website. Such beautiful aircraft hardly seem like the “little rattletraps,” as Sen. Detert seems to recall.

Also reported by the Bradenton Herald:

Bennett, R-Bradenton, also listed among the “top five private fliers,” declined to comment on his travel expenses. He said newspaper reports about the subject are biased, irrelevant and insinuate misdeeds that aren’t there.

“If the editor saw me walking across Sarasota Bay on top of the water, the next day the headline would say: ‘Bennett can’t swim,’ ” Bennett commented Friday.

Sen. Bennet is one of Sen. Detert’s flying companions and another recipient of large campaign contributions from Dolphin Aviation and the company’s owner.

The facts are clear to even a casual observer. Sens. Detert and Bennet have directed tax dollars to a political donor, in exchange for chartered flights under the guise of legitimate travel expenses. Whether it was intended as a political payoff or not, the facts are the facts. The facts in this situation cannot be biased, no matter how much Sen. Bennet wishes they were.

We’re still waiting for someone courageous and interested in cleaning up the political process in Tallahassee to advance legislation which closes the loophole allowing legislators to charge taxpayers for private flights on donor and lobbyist planes. We will continue to hold out hope for someone to do the right thing, but it’s doubtful anyone will be holding their breath.

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