Two easily recognizable congressional leaders found themselves on a Delta flight Monday afternoon from Atlanta to Washington: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and civil rights icon and Georgia Democrat John Lewis.
Lewis, as he most always does, settled into a seat in coach class for the relatively short, one hour and 45-minute flight up from his district to Washington. Cantor, however, was sitting up front in business class.
We thought that a bit strange and called Cantor’s office. They’ve been a tad busy these days with his small business tax cut bill working its way to passage on the House floor.
So we can’t tell you why he was on the flight or how he ended up in business class (He could have upgraded using miles or paying cash, for example.)
Delta, we’re confident, could not have given him a courtesy upgrade, because House rules prohibit such things. According to the official House guidance, the gift rule “Applies to all members, officers and employees” and “prohibits acceptance of anything having monetary value unless permitted” by certain exceptions, which include: “Any gift, other than cash or cash equivalent, valued at less than $50, as long as the donor is not a registered lobbyist, foreign agent, or entity that retains or employs them.”
An upgrade would be considered a gift, as it has “monetary value.”
Also, it would n’t matter if the upgrade were less than $50, because any airline is an entity that hires lobbyists.