Perry Questioned Over Private Jet Use

During the first two weeks of the presidential campaign being run by Texas Governor Rick Perry, his aides used the Cessna Citation X business jet owned by businessman Brian D. Pardo to fly to events for the campaign. It’s been reported that Pardo was paid about $21,000 by the Perry campaign for two days of flights that totalled about nine hours of in-air time. This comes as Pardo is under a federal investigation by security regulators.

In an interview with Pardo, he said he told the campaign to reimburse him whatever was required by federal law. The reimbursement was done very properly, and he believes $21,000 is around what it would have cost to use the planes for the flights they made, he added. If the campaign had chartered the same aircraft, it could have cost as much as three times more, according to other interviews. This has raised questions as to if Perry effectively received an unreported campaign contribution by paying Pardo less than the average flight costs.

The Perry campaign initially said on Monday that it was sure it had reimbursed plane owners properly for trips by calculating the percentage of plane seats that were used by its officials. They didn’t reimburse the total cost of an equivalent charter flight. After questions were raised, outside general counsel Bill Canfield said that the campaign would look into the issue again by seeking a formal opinion with aviation and election law experience from outside the counsel. The campaign will amend its report if the advice from that counsel finds it necessary. He added that they take the compliance of federal campaign regulations seriously.

Experts say that changes in campaign laws generally require presidential campaigns to pay the usual or normal charter fare or rental charge that would have been paid if the transport was leased from a charter company. Questions over this issue highlight the sticky territory presidential candidates find themselves in sometimes when they try to fly to several campaign events in one swoop. Some prefer to hire charters from independent companies or simply book commercial services to avoid situations like this.

Former Federal Election Commission chairman Scott Thomas told journalists that the FEC rule is tough. It essentially requires a presidential campaign to work with the total value of a comparable charter when they fly on a private plane. The campaign has to pay that amount to the owner, and they can’t use comparable first-class fares.

Perry’s campaign has used the private aircraft of other campaign supporters and donors too. An aide also said on Monday that they will file an amended finance report. This follows an inquiry by reporters about why its initial report last weekend didn’t list the travel dates for when the private jets were used. This is also required under federal regulations.

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