February 7, 1996 in Nation/World

Taxpayers Subsidizing First Lady’s Book Tour

Associated Press

Taxpayers will pick up the lion’s share of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s air fare for a tour to promote her best-selling book about children, government and airline estimates show.

Hillary Clinton is flying on a 12-seat Air Force jet that costs $2,890 per flying hour because the Secret Service wanted the first lady to use a government plane for security reasons.

Hillary Clinton’s aides said the taxpayer expense is an unfortunate but necessary cost, but critics said the first lady should have found a cheaper way to promote her book, which is a private endeavor.

The book, “It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us,” is No. 1 on The New York Times’ best seller list. Most of the proceeds from it will go to children’s hospitals and other charities.

The total bill for the plane will come to about $69,360 by the time the tour ends later this month. Taxpayers will absorb about 80 percent of the cost.

Hillary Clinton’s publisher, New York-based Simon & Schuster, will reimburse the government the amount of a first-class air fare ticket for each leg of the trip for both Hillary Clinton and her two aides.

That reimbursement would total between $11,958 to $16,164, based on fares quoted by several airlines.

That would leave taxpayers to absorb between $53,196 (77 percent) and $57,402 (82 percent) for the flights. The Secret Service protection the first lady is always provided would be extra.

“The security comes at some expense to the taxpayer and we regret that, but the Secret Service made a recommendation and we listened to them,” said Neel Lattimore, deputy press secretary for Hillary Clinton.

However, there is a precedent for presidents’ wives using government planes for personal book tours. Barbara Bush used a military jet, at taxpayers expense, to promote her book about the Bush’s dog Millie, which became a best-seller.

But in an atmosphere of cost-cutting and budgetbalancing, critics said Hillary Clinton should have found a less expensive alternative than the $2,890-an-hour Air Force plane.

David Keating, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, a nonpartisan group that advocates lower taxes, said Hillary Clinton could have chartered a jet or done live video presentations.

Using the Air Force jet “is the most expensive way to tackle this,” Keating said.

The exact cost of the trip won’t be known until some weeks after the final leg of the tour is complete, Lattimore said.

But based on information from airlines, the first leg of Hillary Clinton’s tour, which took her to Arkansas, Michigan, Illinois, New York and Boston in early January, involved about 10 hours of flying time. That means the trip cost about $28,900.

The second leg of the tour, scheduled for early February, stops in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas. The trip involves about 14 hours of flying time, based on airline information, meaning the second leg will cost about $40,460.

MEMO: Cut in Spokane edition

Cut in Spokane edition

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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