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January 21st, 2009
03:59 PM ET

Frank talk on corporate jets gets a good grounding in Congress

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).

Note from reporter: Congressman and Senators love to get a lot of press when initiating bold, new legislation, tough talking amendments or major initiatives. One of the reasons they seek media attention on the "front-end" is because they know, as do those of us who cover them, that it is very rare anything ever really gets done on the "back end". Most new legislation winds up going nowhere. In our continuing effort to "Keep Them Honest" here is a look at one of those bold proposals that went nowhere almost immediately upon its introduction.

Drew Griffin
CNN Special Investigations Unit

When those auto makers flew to congress in corporate jets to ask for a taxpayer bail out, no one was more upset than the powerful chairman of the house financial services committee, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).

So irate over the use of corporate jets, Frank was determined to make sure it never happened again. His plan, no corporate executives coming to Washington asking for bailout money would be allowed to travel in those multi-million dollar symbols of excess.

To make sure corporate America got the message, Mr. Frank dropped a provision into the latest bailout bill, H.R. 384, the TARP Reform and Accountability Act, requiring would-be recipients of taxpayer funds to dump their corporate fleets. Basically, if you want taxpayer money, sell your jet and fly commercial.

That sure sounded tough. And it sure sent a message to the automakers. When they came back to Washington they drove.

But it turns out Rep. Barney Frank may have overreacted. Last week Rep. Frank quietly stripped the no-jet provision from the bill. Why? Kansas.

Kansas is a hub of aircraft manufacturing, particularly the making of corporate jets. Fellow democrat Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS) sent a note to Congressman Frank delicately suggesting the powerful chairman re-think the tough talk.

"We have to be careful about congress overreacting," Moore wrote in a statement.

What he wrote to Chairman Frank was more diplomatic.

"It is clear that the auto executives were insensitive to American taxpayers when they flew in their private jets to request billions of dollars. But I have concerns that applying this well-intended provision may have unintended consequences of hurting the general aviation industry and its workers."

The congressman pointed out pointed out 44-thousand workers in Kansas work directly for the airplane manufacturing industry, and a lot of families depend on those paychecks. Last Tuesday the "no-fly" language was dropped, and yet another get tough message from congress got a soft landing.

Late today, Chairman Frank sent a statement to CNN explaining why. Here it is:

"The private aircraft industry is an important industry in America, and it plays a necessary role with businesses in certain areas of the country. For example, there are a number of communities that do not have commercial air service available for hundreds of miles. Some of these communities are already in economic distress, and denying businesses the ability to use private aircraft further disadvantages these businesses and seriously impacts thousands of American jobs that provide services to this industry. I heard from many members of Congress from both parties representing a half a dozen states expressing concerns of their constituents in regard to this matter and hence why we further reviewed the issue and ultimately removed it from the legislation."

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Ruth

    I agreed with the "reporter"in regards to any if anything getting done about it? It's like hitting a brick wall. A waste of words time and energy perhaps? What does that say about the political system itself? How do these people get into these positions in the first place? ~sigh~

    January 22, 2009 at 5:16 am |
  2. Sam in GA

    How often does Barney fly commercial? Lets total up the cost of corporate jets by Congress that is charged back to taxpayers who wrote the check for Barney. Cut out the luxuries in corporations and government.

    January 22, 2009 at 12:54 am |
  3. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Thanks Drew for keeping us informed. That's the thing about cuts. Someone, somewhere will lose income for every "cut" that is made. It's not the jets fault that the auto makers used them to arrive for a handout! So fly the friendly skies, unless you're holding a tin cup for donations to pay for the fuel...

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    January 21, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  4. Tom from PHilly

    Well, today there was a banner on cnn saying that the new york times got a 250M$ cash infusion, then it cut to a commercial for the weekender subscription from NYT, how much did that ad cost, and dont the people that want to read it already buy or subscribe to it. No joke one of the next ads was from wells fargo announcing they just gobbled up wachovia, how much did that ad cost? Rep Frank wont accept email from non constituients, but i would like to ask him to impose strict limits on pay, # and proximity of bank branches, and espeically advertising. While an ad from burger king might give you a hankering for a Whopper, an ad from the nyt or a bank receiving corporate welfare to support over paid executives makes me puke, it doesnt make me want to subscribe or change banks, and never will.. . Its in the governments hands to end corporate excess, I suggest they do it before they continue to ask people struggling to survive to prop up executives that make many times their income, its gross. Every dollar these companies hadnt squandered and every dollar they dont waste now, will bring a lower need for loans and a quicker repay. Write your reps/senators to impose harsh restrictions on these pigs.

    January 21, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  5. JC- Los Angeles

    Is this the same Barney Frank that let Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac process fraudulent mortgage loan after fraudulent mortgage loan contributing to the financial collapse of a once proud nation?

    January 21, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  6. Larry

    Is it the loss of jobs or the loss of votes for a fellow democrat?

    January 21, 2009 at 4:22 pm |