Candidates As Frequent Flyers

In the presidential campaign, you've seen the candidates hop off those campaign planes on stop after stop on the campaign trail. Ever wonder who owns those planes, and how much the candidates pay to use them? CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer has uncovered the bigger picture and the plane truth.

If you're a Vice President running for President, you've got the edge on travel. By reimbursing the government only what it would cost him to fly first class on a commercial airliner, the law allows the Veep to campaign on government planes that cost up to 34,000 dollars an hour to fly.

But it's the question of whose ferrying around the candidates who can't fly on Air Force Two that is raising eyebrows this year.

Take long shot Republican Presidential Candidate Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's often uses the jet owned by the Schering-Plough Pharmaceutical Company, which just happens to be lobbying Hatch's committee to extend the lucrative patent it holds on Claritin, the popular -- and highly profitable -- anti-allegery drug.

Hatch pays the equivalent of first class when he uses the plane and says it won't effect his vote on the patent. But having a private jet at your disposal for that price is still a bargain.

Candidate John McCain, chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee, has worked out similar deals to use jets owned by several corporations his committee regulates. He told CBS Early Show Anchor Bryant Gumbel he feels there is nothing improper about it.

"I don't think it's a huge deal. Every presidential candidate has done it," he explained. "I wish I didn't have to, but it's one of those things."

He's not alone. Democratic candidate Bill Bradley has paid for rides on 45 corporate jets.

Republican front-runner George W. Bush has raised so much money, he hasn't needed corporate jets yet.

And then there's Pat Buchanan. His campaign manager/sister, Bay Buchanan, insists: " We do not use corporate planes."

But her brother, the candidate, jokes, "They haven't offered us one."

What all of it underlines is the mess our campaign laws have become, because no matter how it looks, it's all perfectly legal.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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