Reporters embedded with the Newt Gingrich campaign informed Gingrich campaign officials between Friday and Saturday they would not be traveling via charter plane, a Boeing 737, that the campaign arranged for the press, as a result of the exorbitant cost per reporter. R.C Hammond, Gingrich campaign spokesman, told reporters that the campaign will have to absorb the cost of not having much press on the plane. Politico reports:
He contends that their decision to cancel Monday’s flight has nothing to do with the campaign’s financial condition. If press backs out, the price for the campaign goes up.
“Given the fact that we’re still chartering a plane to go all the places, we’re just not taking the media with it, that’s a moot question,” he said.
When reporters discovered the Gingrich campaign Tampa flight entailed only one event, they questioned the campaign as to why their organizations should be paying anywhere between $2000 to over $3000 per reporter for two legs of a one event trip.
The charter plane company employed by the Gingrich campaign, Moby Dick Airways, was contacted by some reporters who asked that credit cards not be charged for a flight they did not plan to take. In response to these requests Gingrich campaign Chief Operating Officer wrote back:
“We are sorry and unable to issue refunds on air travel to Palm Beach and Tampa at this time. Newt 2012 chartered the Boeing 737-400 Jet, in reliance upon the number of air travelers signing up and placing deposits. Unfortunately, the time to select new aircraft or obtain a refund has passed.”
“With respect to concerns that Newt 2012 is passing along excess travel costs, please understand the FEC regulations require us to pass along “per traveler costs to media, no more and no less.”
Roberto Coquis Chief Operating Officer Newt 2012
Some embedded reporters plan to dispute any charges that would come from the charter flight to Tampa they did not take. Only two media outlets boarded the plane on Saturday night.
Chris Moody at Yahoo News describes the Gingrich campaign’s retaliation to his press embeds for dropping out of the chartered flight en masse:
Then, the campaign dropped a bomb: No reporters would be allowed to fly with Gingrich on his campaign swing on Monday, when his schedule calls for more than 1,000 miles of travel, complete with campaign stops from the panhandle near the Alabama border to Miami. Without a plane, it would be virtually impossible to cover Gingrich on the day before voting begins in the primary that political observers think will make or break his campaign.
Also, the press was no longer invited to fly with Gingrich to the next contest in Nevada, which will hold its Republican caucuses on Feb. 4.
No one from Gingrich’s campaign would say on the record why the reporters were no longer invited to travel with the candidate.
“I don’t have to give you a reason,” R.C. Hammond, a Gingrich spokesman, said.