Executives on Bush trip to fly at government expense

December 24, 1991|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Washington Bureau of The Sun.Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Taxpayers will be paying the airfare for some of the nation's highest-paid executives during the Far East tour on which President Bush is bringing along 21 U.S. business leaders to help him "relentlessly pursue our mission to create jobs."

Administration officials said yesterday that the business leaders will be flying free aboard Air Force One and its 747 backup plane on the Dec. 30-Jan. 10 trip that will take them to eight cities in Australia, Singapore, Korea and Japan.

The White House typically does not calculate the cost of trips aboard government-owned aircraft. But the tab for journalists accompanying Mr. Bush on their privately financed charter is estimated at about $8,200 each.

Making such a trip aboard a commercial plane would cost more than $5,000 a person for coach class, according the Omega Travel agency in Hunt Valley and would feature none of the convenience or amenities of traveling with the president.

Critics of Mr. Bush's alleged lack of attention to the domestic economy suggested yesterday that giving corporate executives a free trip with presidential status to promote their companies' interests abroad does not address those concerns.

"Government-provided Carnival Cruises to Japan, complete with social directors, was not exactly what we had in mind" when Democrats in Congress charged that Mr. Bush should be doing more to advance U.S. interests in international trade, said Representative Dennis E. Eckart, D-Ohio.

Mr. Eckart said it was particularly "questionable" whether the president should be providing free trips for business leaders, including the heads of the three major automakers, "who are pulling down six- or seven-figure salaries."

Members of the business delegation will pay for their own hotel rooms and other incidentals, including some meals, according to a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department.

Even so, the corporate executives will be wined and dined by the host governments most days.

"Most people would be willing to pay handsomely for that, and these people are getting it for free," said David Keating, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers' Union, a lobby aimed at lowering taxes. "If I were George Bush, I think I would ask them to pay their own way."

The trip will mark the first time President Bush has taken a group of private citizens along on one of his foreign journeys. The idea was suggested by Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher Sr., who is about to become general chairman of Mr. Bush's re-election campaign.

"We still believe it's a very good [idea], and the fact that we're getting some criticism from the Democrats just shows how good it is," said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.

It's not just Democrats, though, who think Mr. Bush's corporate guests should be asked to contribute at least the cost of commercial airfare. Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, also questioned the financial arrangements.

"I think it's fine for him to take business people along and get their views," she said. "I just don't think the taxpayers should pay for it."

Business delegation

G;

Dexter F. Baker, CEO, Air Products and Chemicals Inc.

Dr. Winston Chen, CEO, Solectron Corp.

Beverly F. Dolan, CEO, Textron Inc.

Robert Galvin, chairman, Motorola Inc.

Joseph T. Gorman, CEO, TRW Inc.

Maurice R. Greenberg, CEO, American International Group

Bronce Henderson, chairman, Detroit Center Tool

James Herr, chairman, Herr Foods Inc.

Lee Iacocca, CEO, Chrysler Corp.

Robert J. Maricich, president, American of Martinsville

Raymond Marlow, president, Marlow Industries

John C. Marous, CEO emeritus, Westinghouse Electric Corp.

Harold A. Poling, CEO, Ford Motor Co.

Heinz Prechter, CEO, ASC Inc.

John P. Reilly, CEO, Tenneco Automotive

James D. Robinson III, CEO, American Express

David M. Roderick, chairman emeritus, USX Corp.

C.J. Silas, CEO, Phillips Petroleum Co.

Robert C. Stempel, CEO, GM Corp.

Michael von Clemm, exec. vice president, Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.

Patrick Ward, CEO, Caltex Petroleum Corp.

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