Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ
It's mid-October of an election year, and you know what that means: time for political operatives to empty their cupboards of every attack that could possibly stick to the opposing party, and hope the media is willing to credulously run with it.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) is being subject to one such attack, which appears to revolve around two facts: 1) She is engaged to hedge fund manager Donald Sussman and 2) Donald Sussman is rich.
Specifically, some in the media are attempting to suggest that she is a hypocrite for flying on her fiancé's private jet, contrasting those flights with out-of-context comments that don't quite show what they are suggesting. Here's Stu Rothenberg in a Roll Call column from last week:
But Pingree won an open seat with only 55 percent two years ago, and GOP operatives see her as "a polarizer in a state that doesn't like polarizers." And Pingree has made herself the focus of controversy by flying around on a corporate jet owned by her fiancé, a wealthy hedge fund chairman.
This is the same Pingree who testified before Congress by criticizing legislators who used private airplanes and said flying on corporate jets "contributes to the corrosive public perception that Members of Congress are more like the fat cats of Wall Street than they are like the rest of us."
And here's the full context of Pingree's April 2006 testimony, back when she was president of Common Cause: Pingree was expressing opposition to a provision of a proposed bill that would ban registered lobbyists from traveling on corporate-chartered flights with members of Congress. The thrust of Pingree's argument is that the provision wouldn't go far enough, as the actual problem wasn't that lobbyists were on those flights, but that members of Congress were being flown around by corporations in the first place. According to Pingree, this was a special gift to lawmakers not available to most Americans, and "even if lobbyists are not on the flight, someone from the company, like the C.E.O., will be on board to discuss the company's legislative agenda in their place."
Seems somewhat different from the issue of a member of Congress having access to her fiancé's private jet, doesn't it? That's probably why the House ethics panel has cleared Pingree's jet use -- a fact Rothenberg doesn't mention.
Meanwhile, the Maine media is printing stories about how Pingree "would be in violation of federal campaign finance laws" if she used Sussman's jet for campaign purposes, an allegation for which there is no evidence, and which the Pingree campaign has denied.
Yes, the silly season is here.