House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly requested military aircraft to shuttle her and her colleagues and family around the country, according to a new report from a conservative watchdog group.
Representatives for Judicial Watch, which obtained e-mails and other documents from a Freedom of Information request, said the correspondence shows Pelosi has abused the system in place to accommodate congressional leaders and treated the Air Force as her "personal airline."
Pelosi's office disputed the claim, pointing to White House policy enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks allowing for the House speaker to travel to his or her congressional district via military aircraft whenever possible for security reasons. Her office said she typically uses the same kind of aircraft used by her predecessor, Dennis Hastert.
But Judicial Watch said that Pelosi was notorious for making special demands for high-end aircraft, lodging last-minute cancellations and racking up additional expenses for the military.
The e-mails showed repeated attempts by Pelosi aides to request aircraft, sometimes aggressively, and by Department of Defense officials to accommodate them.
"I think that's above and beyond what other members of Congress are doing and what is expected of our elected officials," said Jenny Small, a researcher with the group.
In one e-mail, aide Kay King complained to the military that they had not made available any aircraft the House speaker wanted for Memorial Day recess.
"It is my understanding there are NO G5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable ... The Speaker will want to know where the planes are," King wrote.
In another, when told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, King wrote: "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset Speaker."
Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said the report seemed to be based on only "a few e-mails," and defended the requests for military aircraft for her colleagues as a "function of the speaker's office." Elshami said at least one of the requests in the above e-mails referenced requests made for other members.
Pelosi's office noted that the Department of Defense ultimately makes all decisions on use of military aircraft for travel, and that Pelosi is "extraordinarily appreciative" of the department's effort to accommodate Congress.