White House chief of staff John Sununu accepted payment from a ski corporation for family ski vacations that he said were funded by a non-profit charity, a corporation executive said Saturday.
The payment, apparently a matter of bookkeeping that may conflict with federal ethics requirements, was first disclosed in Time magazine's edition released Saturday, and confirmed by the president of the Waterville Valley ski resort in New Hampshire.The disclosure came as President Bush told reporters he will announce changes in the travel policy that allowed Sununu to use government aircraft for extensive political and personal travel in addition to official business.
"We're very close to coming out with these changes," Bush told reporters traveling with him to Ann Arbor, Mich. Bush has said Sununu's travel did not violate existing policy, but aides have said the president will tighten the policy in the wake of a review by White House Counsel Boyden Gray.
Sununu uses a government jet for all travel, but must pay reimbursement for personal use. The government also must be reimbursed when such a trip is solely for a political purpose.
How Sununu reimbursed the government for non-official use of the aircraft is another issue. Federal law bars officials from receiving significant payments or gifts - except from non-profit charitable or educational organizations.
The Waterville Valley ski resort, which hosts the annual Christa McAuliffe Ski Invitational charity event that Sununu helped launch as governor of New Hampshire, picked up the lodging, lift tickets and meals for Sununu and his wife and children this year and in previous years, said resort president Thomas Corcoran.
A special account set up by the resort to put on the tournament also reimbursed the government for the Sununu family's airfare, he said. The account receives donations from corporate interests, including Coca Cola, McDonald's and Siemans Nixdorf, an electronics company that won a $7 million computer contract with New Hampshire when Sununu was governor.
Time reported that Sununu also accepted corporate payment for airfare for an undisclosed number of family members when he flew in June to Lawrence, Mass., 10 miles from his Salem, N.H., home.
Sununu spoke at an Eagle-Tribune newspaper banquet, listing the trip as official business, with no airfare reimbursement required.
He did provide reimbursement of $1,920 for family members traveling with him on the military jet, White House records show. That was paid by the newspaper, Time said.
White House spokesman Sean Walsh said Saturday the White House would have no comment on any new allegations regarding Sununu's travel.