GOP Pledge-O-Meter: Promise Kept

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on June 11, 2012

In 2009, Judicial Watch made a big splash when they revealed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been using military aircraft to travel to and from her home district in California to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars.

The spendthrift nature of the Democrat-controlled Congress was a key election issue in 2010 and Speaker Pelosi’s extravagance was Exhibit A.  In response, Rep. John Boehner promised that if the GOP took control of the House and he was elected speaker, he would fly commercial to and from his district. After Republicans won, he reiterated his pledge.

Which brings us to March 23, 2012 and this update at self-appointed watchdog Politifact. Reporter Molly Moorhead referenced documents from the House and the Congressional Research Service and came up with absolutely no evidence that Boehner has been asking for or receiving military transport to and/or from his district.

Going by the old theory that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, Moorhead and her bosses at Politifact, decided that this merited an “In The Works” label. Unfortunately, the Pledge-O-Meter is not really conducive to movement along its scale when the issue is truthfulness. By this point in Boehner’s speakership, this should be Promise Broken or Promise Kept. The speaker has either been flying commercial (and his spokesman is telling the truth) or he’s been flying military (and his spokesman is lying). There is no middle ground.

That is, unless your reporter hasn’t done all they could’ve to actually report the story.

When I saw this, as is the case with most analyses by Politifraud, I was suitably outraged, annoyed and disgusted.

The professional journalists apparently can’t be bothered to file a FOIA with the Air Force—which is how we found out about Air Pelosi.

And that’s what got me. I’ve got a journalism degree. I’ve got a Pulitzer Prize on my shelf. I know how to fill out forms. So, on April 12, for the first time since I was a wee little reporter at The Lompoc Record, I filed a FOIA with the Air Force.

I request any Mission Expense Records and Passenger Manifests which include Speaker of the House John Boehner and flights made between any Washington, D.C.-area military base—specifically Andrews AFB—and the state of Ohio in the time period of Jan. 2011 through March 2012.

I would like the records to include:
1. The date(s) of the flights.
2. The type of aircraft the Speaker flew on.
3. The names of any other members of Congress or the Executive Branch who were also on those flights.
4. Any additional expenses incurred on the flights
5. Any written communications between the Speaker's office and the Air Force on any special requests on the flights (food, entertainment, etc.)

And last week, I got my answer.

No Records Letter Matthew Hoy

Is this definitive that Speaker Boehner has kept his promise? In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I’d say that this is a big yes.

But this is only a little bit about Speaker Boehner and his promise. This is more about Politifact, which continues to tout its 2009 Pulitzer three years later. If you look back at the genesis of Boehner’s promise in the Pelosi scandal… If you look back and see how that malfeasance was uncovered…  If you want to verify it’s not happening again…

You file a FOIA.

You don’t leave it to some guy in his pajamas to do it for you. [Clarification: I'm actually wearing jeans and a T-shirt.]

Politifact’s initial analysis ended with this:

We will continue to seek more concrete records of Boehner"s travels and follow this pledge. If readers see him flying commercial—or on a military jet—please let us know. For now, the evidence is enough to move the needle to In the Works.

They’ll be getting an e-mail shortly after this is posted. Then we’ll see if this moves their needle a little more.

[Editor's note: This article was originally written at the end of April, but as I was doing an edit/re-read I realized that it appeared that the Air Force letter only dealt with departures from Andrews AFB, not arrivals. I sent an e-mail trying to get a clarification, but received no response. Seeing as how I'm no longer a professional journalist, I've decided to leave the rest of it to someone who's getting paid to do it.]

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10 comments on “GOP Pledge-O-Meter: Promise Kept”

  1. Want to see Molly? Click here

    I assume that shocked look on her face is her reaction to having the quality of her journalism broadcast across the Internet(s).

  2. Note - Rep. Boehner's district is in the Cincinnati area. The Cinci airport is actually in Kentucky. You may want to modify your FOIA one more time.

    1. The Cinci airport is a civilian airport. If he were using military transport, he would likely fly into Wright-Patterson AFB which is in Ohio. Pelosi wasn't flying into civilian airports. She was flying into military bases.

  3. Ace reporter Molly might want to add this tidbit to her hard-hitting exposes: Nancy Pelosi was forced to resign from her seat on an Army appropriations committee for voting three times to give her husband contracts to run Walter Reade Medical Center Does she recall the scandal that broke out shortly thereafter about the horrendous care our wounded warriors were receiving there? Probably not. The MSM buried both stories.

  4. Note – Rep. Boehner’s district is in the Cincinnati area. The Cinci airport is actually in Kentucky. You may want to modify your FOIA one more time.


    Worth checking, but any USAF flights he might have taken would most likely go to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton which is about the same distance from Boehner's home, which is actually north of Cincinnati up in Butler County.

  5. Well done. I've learned to ignore Politifarce, but it still chaps my butt that they get away with so many half-truths and outright lies.

  6. If it was a dem promise fulfilled, I suspect this reporter would have went through the relitively trivial effort you did to verify it. As it is, if politifact was not willing to verify it was true, and since their purpose is to spot proven falsehoods, but having no evidence at all it was false, the only proper assessment would have been promise fulfilled, since they have no evidence at all that is was not. Another example of politifacts bias.


I'm half-way through this opening statement by @mtaibbi and already I want to stand and applaud.

This complaint was resolved (not really!) in mere hours!

Seriously, this is crazy, @factchecknet. Your transparency on this craziness is long overdue. @baybarsorsek @Ferdi_Ozsoy

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