I-Team 10: Frequent flying lawmakers
Created: 09/04/2013 6:18 PM WHEC.com
Your tax dollars cover the travel costs of our elected state officials. But did you know that those elected officials also get to keep the frequent flyer miles that you pay for?
That's what a New York Post report says is happening and now, a grand of state legislators say the practice is unethical and they're trying to outlaw it.
The question arose after an analysis of expense records by the New York Post found the Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spent $20,000 of your money over the past three years flying to and from Albany. Instead of taking direct flights though, the report says many instead connected in Washington, D.C. or Philadelphia, building up more mileage.
The report estimated Silver potentially racked up more than $200,000 frequent flyer miles as a result. Silver's staff has defended the travel as more efficient, allowing him to conduct sensitive work. But three Assembly republicans are now drafting legislation that would ban government officials from collecting frequent-flyer benefits or reward points of any kind that are earned through travel paid by you, the taxpayer.
One of those lawmakers is Michael Fitzpatrick. I-Team 10 spoke with him by phone late Wednesday afternoon.
Mike Fitzpatrick said, "It's just a very inefficient way to travel 200 miles and it's, come on, why are we doing this. This is crazy. And if you're going to do it, then the miles ought to -- the rewards should go to taxpayers not the legislators."
Lt. Governor Bob Duffy said, "I do believe when you work for the government, things you may take in in terms of benefits belong to the government, belongs to who you work for. I just believe that philosophically."
Duffy, who was in Rochester, stopped short of saying he would support the legislation but said he believes it would garner support. I-Team 10 does not know if Silver ever used those frequent filer miles. In the meantime, Fitzpatrick has called on Silver to donate the miles he has accrued to a non-profit organizations, programs that would provide airline tickets to wounded veterans or sick children.