- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Republican leaders of the House Appropriations Committee sharply criticized the White House yesterday for trying to withhold information about the cost of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's political travel on government aircraft as a Senate candidate in New York.
After a confrontation over the past few days, Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican, said the White House finally disclosed Monday that the total cost of Mrs. Clinton's campaign travels jumped from $698,022 to $925,076 after bills came in for her 13 political trips during the month of June.
The first lady's Senate campaign has repaid the government just $145,611, or 15 percent of the total cost to operate the aircraft under federal reimbursement rules, said Mr. Kolbe, who chairs the House Appropriations Treasury, Postal Service and general government subcommittee.
Under federal rules, she is required to pay only the cost of first-class plane tickets for political travel.
"They've been very slow in their reimbursement. That's why they've been dragging their feet," the Arizona congressman said.
After controversy erupted about Mrs. Clinton's taxpayer-funded political travels, the committee directed the White House earlier this year to provide monthly reports of trips related to her Senate campaign on military aircraft assigned to the president.
The June report was due Saturday, Mr. Kolbe said, but last week the White House said it was not ready and requested a delay until after the committee action on White House funding.
"We said no," Mr. Kolbe said. "We got the report [Monday]. The report showed that the White House had not billed Mrs. Clinton's campaign for any of 13 political trips she took in June until July 13 and that all campaign reimbursements were paid July 14 and 15.
The report shows that Mrs. Clinton's campaign made eight payments Friday and five payments Saturday, the day the report was due, totaling $33,405 for campaign-related trips in June.
Lissa Muscatine, Mrs. Clinton's spokeswoman, said the delay was "a non-issue."
"The report was due July 15, which was a Saturday, so it was delivered on the next business day, which was Monday," she said.
"The bottom line is the bills were paid on time and the report was delivered on time," she said.
Mrs. Clinton's campaign travels in June took her to 40 destinations throughout New York state and 26 other cities throughout the country presumably for political fund raising including 18 destinations in California and Texas, according to the report released yesterday.
Traveling on an Air Force C-20 Gulfstream aircraft assigned to the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, the first lady also visited Fayetteville, Ark.; Detroit and Bloomfield, Mich.; and Chicago.
Mrs. Clinton logged 62 Air Force flight hours in June, for a total cost to taxpayers of $227,054, the report disclosed. Since July 1999, she has logged 250 flight hours on military aircraft in connection with her Senate candidacy.
A rider added to the Treasury-Postal Service-general government appropriations bill in subcommittee by Rep. John E. Peterson, Pennsylvania Republican, will require all congressional candidates in future elections to fully disclose their travels on government aircraft during campaign years.
"I wish we didn't have to do this," Mr. Peterson said yesterday. "I had asked the White House to set the standard high. We have had to literally squeeze them to get reports. This does not set a good tone for her campaign."
Mr. Peterson said the White House also has not explained the formula it is using to determine what trip costs must be reimbursed by Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign.
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the subcommittee's ranking Democrat, said he thought Republicans were using the issue of Mrs. Clinton's travel for political opportunism.
"They are making more out of this than they should," he said. "They've gone to unbelievable lengths to say [President and Mrs. Clinton] have done something improper to cost the government money, even making more of extra laundry in the White House because people are staying over."

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