John Sununu may be flying less frequently now that President Bush is curtailing his chief of staff's right to take government jets and is making him get an OK for all trips.
Bush said Thursday that "to ensure that military aircraft are used only when necessary," the White House counsel will review Sununu's travel request "on a case-by-case basis."Instead of taking the aircraft on all his personal, political and official travel as he had done previously, Sununu must meet new requirements.
The policy, developed in the wake of disclosures about Sununu's frequent use of military planes, even for ski vacations and trips to the dentist, states:
- OFFICIAL TRAVEL on the government aircraft will be authorized "where security, communications or scheduling needs require" use of the planes.
- PERSONAL TRAVEL will be allowed only if those same requirements are met and there is "an immediate and compelling need for personal travel" such as serious illness of a close relative.
- POLITICAL TRIPS will be barred - "to avoid the appearance that taxpayer dollars are being used to subsidize political travel" - unless the political activity is conducted as part of a trip that is primarily official in nature or the president approves the travel.
- The counsel's office must make the determination that a trip is primarily official in cases where personal or political activities are involved.
Under the previous policy, Sununu decreed which were official trips and which were non-official and required reimbursement to the government.
The new policy covers the chief of staff and national security adviser but does not extend to Cabinet members. The White House noted that the secretaries of state and defense and the attorney general use government aircraft for all travel, "pursuant to longstanding policies" due to security and communications needs.
Bush had defended Sununu as acting within existing policy, but ordered his legal counsel, Boyden Gray, to conduct the review that resulted in Thursday's new rules.
Records on Sununu's travel released with the new policy show he took 76 trips, seven of which were classified as personal, from April 16, 1989, to May 4, 1991.
Sununu reimbursed the government $892 from his own pocket, while his private political fund, left from his days as governor of New Hampshire, reimbursed $8,274 in combination with other sponsors.
`I'm pleased with the review that was done," Sununu said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday. "I told them when they did the review I would agree with whatever assessments and recommendations that they made."
On several trips that were questioned in published reports, Gray found:
- Two trips to the Christa McAuliffe charity ski weekend in New Hampshire were personal rather than official business, as Sununu had claimed.
- Sununu must reimburse the government for a June 1990 trip to his dentist in Boston. He then went on official business in Concord and then flew back to Boston for another official appearance.
- The government must be reimbursed for parts of three trips that Sununu listed as official but that had political components as well. They were a New York trip that included a Verrazzano Day Award dinner in May 1989; a May 1990 Akron University speech that included a stop at a GOP campaign dinner; and a June 1990 Massachusetts trip that included both a Suffolk University commencement speech and a state GOP fund-raiser.