The state Ethics Commission today released an advisory opinion about the use of state aircrafts by politicians, an area of law so porous that, according to Andrew Cuomo’s report, it’s been virtually impossible to violate it.
Eliot Spitzer’s aides tried raising that point by documenting trips made by Joe Bruno, which led to the current spat of investigations into Spitzer.
The Commission’s opinion says that politicians can use state aircraft if there is “a bona fide State purpose for the trip” and “State purpose must be the primary reason for the trip.”
That second part is a major shift to the current laws about using state aircraft, which is permitted if even a minor part of the trip is connected to legislative work.
Other major changes to the aircraft policy include upping the reimbursement rates for using the aircraft for non-governmental portions of a trip (from commercial rates to the more expensive charter rates). And details of the trip must be reported to the governor’s office and made available to the public via FOIL requests.
It’s something of a victory for supporters of the Spitzer position, like the New York Times editorial board, who said that the governor’s aides that asked state troopers to document Bruno’s use of the state aircraft were simply trying to publicize information that should have been publicized anyway.