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Nation Digest: FEC eases restrictions on candidates' luxury jets

Patrick Farmer plays St. Nick at Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. The town's post office is out of the Letters to Santa program.
Patrick Farmer plays St. Nick at Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. The town's post office is out of the Letters to Santa program. (Sam Harrel/associated Press)

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Friday, November 20, 2009

FEC

Curbs on use of jets by candidates eased

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday eased restrictions on the use of luxury jets by many candidates for federal office, ruling that Senate and presidential candidates can pay discounted prices for private air travel as long as they do not do so on behalf of their own campaign.

Campaign-finance reform advocates condemned the decision, saying it will severely undermine the impact of 2007 ethics legislation aimed at requiring all federal candidates to pay full freight when riding on private jets owned by corporate sponsors or wealthy donors.

But the FEC, by a vote of 4 to 2, ruled that candidates are not acting as candidates when they are traveling on behalf of their leadership PAC, a party PAC or any other committee not explicitly tied to an individual election campaign. The distinction does not apply to House candidates, who "are generally prohibited from making expenditures for travel on most non-commercial flights," the FEC said.

Election-law experts say the ruling means that candidates for Senate, vice president and president will be free to use corporate jets as a private air service as long as they say they are traveling for reasons other than their election.

Thursday's ruling is the latest in a series of controversial decisions by the six-member FEC, which has frequently split along partisan lines over the last year. Chairman Steven T. Walther, a Democrat, joined three Republican commissioners in approving the new travel language.

-- Dan Eggen

FAA

Air traffic disrupted by computer problem

A computer glitch caused widespread disruption of the nation's air traffic system, and officials cautioned travelers to expect residual delays.


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