House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office says reports that she has taken to flying in style are being taken out of context because of politics.
On Wednesday the government watchdog group Judicial Watch released a series of e-mails that allegedly show the Speaker of the House and her staff "berating" military officials to get the best planes possibly for the speaker to fly across country, including the Gulfstream G-5.
But Pelosi's office responded on Thursday by calling the allegations "ridiculous" and misinformed.
"Following the attacks of 9/11, the Bush White House instituted a policy for the Speaker of the House, for security reasons, to travel on a military plane – whenever available – back and forth to their congressional district only," Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for the speaker, said in an email.
The watchdog group also said the emails, from Jan. 2007 to Nov. 2008, show that Pelosi demanded the military provide nonstop flights to the Bay Area while requesting police protection on government planes.
But Elshami said special security precautions are necessary because Pelosi is second in line to the presidency.
"The House Sergeant at Arms asked for an aircraft that can travel between the District and Washington without refueling citing security reasons," he said.
Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood said in a statement in Feb. 2007 that, "in a post 9/11 threat environment, it is reasonable and prudent to provide military aircraft to the speaker for official travel between Washington and her district. The practice began with Speaker (Dennis) Hastert and I have recommended that it continue with Speaker Pelosi."
The e-mails also painted a picture of Pelosi's office making demands to ensure the speaker's happiness.
"It is my understanding there are no G-5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable . . . The speaker will want to know where the planes are," a Pelosi aide wrote in one of the e-mails.
Her office said this e-mail was not to organize a trip for her but instead the aide was trying to schedule for eight Congressional delegations. They also called the portrayal of a love affair with the Gulfstream G-5, made popular in rap videos, a political issue that ignored the fact her office arranged travel with Republicans as well.
"The availability and size of the military aircraft is determined by the Department of Defense," Elshami said. "Typically, when Speaker Pelosi uses military aircraft to travel between her Congressional District and Washington, the military assigns the same 12-seat aircraft used by her predecessor."
On Wednesday, ABC News reported that Pelosi in fact used military aircraft less often than Hastert, a Republican from Illinois. The report also debunked a long-standing rumor that Pelosi regularly charted an Air Force C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737.
"According to the documents, Pelosi did not make any domestic trips on a C-40 during the 23-month period from January 2007 to November 2008," ABC reported. "Her trips to San Francisco have all been on smaller executive aircraft, usually an Air Force C-20 (the equivalent of a Gulfstream G-3) or a more plush C-37 (a Gulfstream G-5)."