WASHINGTON — As an example of out-of-touch Washington run amok, Rep. Michele Bachmann told an audience at the Values Voters Summit over the weekend that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “has been busy sticking the taxpayer with her $100,000 bar tab for alcohol on the military jets that she’s flying.”
Trouble is, says the Pulitzer Prize-winning factchecking group PolitiFact, it’s not true. In fact, they rated the statement as “Pants on Fire.” The nexus of the report, which sourced Bachmann’s statement to a news release issued months ago by Judicial Watch:
“The news release said that the $101,429.14 amount was for “in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol.” But our friends at the website FactCheck.org determined that the sum spent on alcohol is a small proportion of that amount and that not all of the expenses were in-flight. “It’s clear that Judicial Watch is counting as ‘in-flight expenses’ any non-reimbursable Air Force expenditure besides transportation costs,” FactCheck.org wrote. “That category actually includes all non-plane costs of the trip, including baggage fees, meeting room rentals and refreshments, and, frequently, good-will lapel pins — as well as meals, ground transportation and lodging in U.S. territory.”
A spokeswoman for Judicial Watch confirmed to PolitiFact that “the tab amount includes, but is not limited to, alcohol and food.”
It’s fair game to argue that buying liquor for lawmaker jaunts is an unjustifiable taxpayer expenditure even if perfectly legal. However, if Bachmann wanted to criticize these outlays, she should have read the Judicial Watch news release more closely. Since Bachmann (or her staff) didn’t do so, she ended up citing a figure for alcohol expenditures that was close to the much larger number for all non-plane costs of the trip. We rate her statement Pants on Fire.
Bachmann has been rated 11 times by PolitiFact, with six “False” and five “Pants on Fire” ratings. I contacted Bachmann’s campaign and official office spokespeople for comment on this and will be happy to update this as I hear from them.
She has taken issue with the news agency before: Then-spokeswoman Debbee Keller told the New York Times in 2009 that Bachmann takes their ratings “with a grain of salt.”