Rep. Dan Daniel (D-Va.) told the House yesterday that he had sent Beech Aircraft Corp. a check for $1,127 to pay for the 23 free flights to his district he took on company planes between 1983 and 1985.
Separately, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), another supporter of Beech aircraft purchases, said he too had taken a free trip from a Beech distributor. In a statement last night Thurmond said he and his family had accepted a flight in May to Aiken, S.C., from Page Avjet, the Washington distributor for Beech. That firm also provided the free flights for Daniel.
In a brief speech on the House floor yesterday, Daniel told his colleagues he had erred by accepting the flights from Beech. "I deeply regret this error on my part due to a misunderstanding of the relevant House rules and I believe I have now acted in a forthright and expeditious manner to correct the error," he said.
A senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Daniel disclosed yesterday that he took a total of 23 one-way trips between Washington and Danville, Va., on Beech planes. He said he accepted three trips in 1983, seven in 1984 and 13 in 1985. He paid the company $49 per trip, the commercial air fare.
"As I stated from the first time this issue was raised, and as I was made aware of the rules governing this matter, I have made restitution to the company and amended my financial disclosure forms to reflect the receipt of transportation from my district," said Daniel, who has been in the House 17 years.
Daniel said last week that he had accepted free flights while urging Congress to authorize $56.9 million for the Pentagon to buy 24 of Beech's C12 twin-engine turboprop aircraft.
Daniel has been a longtime supporter of the Beech plane, which he said National Guard and reserve officials need to get into the field and observe their units.
House conflict-of-interest rules forbid any member from accepting a total of $100 or more in gifts each year from any individual or organization with any legislative interests before Congress.
House rules also require all members to disclose any gifts over $250 that they receive. The free airplane rides were not listed on Daniel's financial disclosure forms.
Last week in interviews, Daniel denied that there was any conflict of interest involved, saying that his support of the Beech aircraft had nothing to do with the airplane rides. He told reporters that he has also flown in other corporate aircraft when Beech planes were unavailable. Daniel, however, did not name any other companies as providing free flights in his amended financial disclosure statements.
Last Friday, Common Cause asked the House ethics committee to investigate whether Daniel's use of Beech plans violated any House ethics rules. The ethics committee has declined to comment on whether it would comply with the request for an investigation. The committee meets Thursday, but the meetings are closed and the committee is not required to disclose the matters discussed.
Thurmond said last night, "As with any gift of transportation required to be reported, I intend to list this transportation on my annual financial disclosure report."
"At my direction, my staff had previously ascertained that Page Avjet neither had a paid lobbyist nor a political action committee, which would make them a prohibited source under the Senate Rules for gifts in excess of $100. If for any reason, the acceptance of this transportation was improper under the Senate rules, I will gladly provide reimbursement for the cost of the travel," said Thurmond.
Thurmond also has supported the purchase of Beech aircraft, but he said last night his support was in no way connected to the free airplane ride.