Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) highlights a Roll Call report about U.S. Rep. Sam Graves’ use of a contributor’s airplane to travel throughout his large rural district, and his failure to disclose the use of the plane in his House reports. Graves has benefited from possibly thousands of dollars worth of free flights owned by a contracting firm that is also a major financial contributor to Graves’ campaigns. St. Joseph, Mo., -based Herzog Comanies Inc. is the second largest contributor to Graves over his career, having given the congressman over $75,000 since 1989. How can Graves’ failure to disclose these gifts not have been a violation of House ethics rules?
Last month, Roll Call raised questions regarding other flights Herzog provided Graves on its airplanes. Prime Buzz, the political blog of The Kansas City Star, reprinted the subscription-only article. Graves’ financial reports list flights on Herzog corporate jets to attend NASCAR races in Florida. Graves’s records term the flights as gifts from a personal friend. House ethics rules did allow members and their staff to receive gifts from friends, but requires that member receive prior approval from the ethics committee for any gift valued over $250. But as Roll Call points out, the jets are owned by a corporation, not an individual…And corporations don’t have friends.
And then there is the issue of a little-used, one-runway airport in far Northwest Missouri. Also in November, Roll Call published an article (also reposted by Prime Buzz) detailing federal funds received by the airport for redesign and overhaul of its facilities. Records show that the airport was to receive $750,000 in federal funds over the past four years, and $147,670 from April 1 to Nov. 1 of this year. It so happens that the airport abuts land owned by Graves, a pilot himself, where he has a hanger for his four planes. A property line separates Graves’ hangar and the other hangers of the airport, Roll Call reported. "The critics’ contention: that the lawmaker and his friends are among the few people who are directly benefiting from the federal largess." The Missouri Republican serves on the Agriculture, Small Business, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees and is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation.
So much for required disclosure.
(Thanks to a Missouri based colleague for finding those local links!)