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Posts published in “Day: December 17, 2017”

Private jets, public helicopters


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s use of corporate jets and Park Service Police helicopters for what looks to be thinly disguised personal use has generated controversy, largely within the Beltway, and a formal investigation.

It has also led to several readers asking how the late Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus managed the matter during the four years he served as Secretary of the Interior for President Jimmy Carter. Besides being Director of the Office of Public Affairs, I also was Andrus’ press secretary which meant that I traveled when he traveled 95% of the time.

It is a fair question deserving an answer for it tells much about how one views public service and stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Keep in mind that the Interior department in the 1970’s had the eighth largest air fleet in the world. When one considers all the agencies and bureaus within the department, it is easy to see how this could be. For example, the Interagency Fire Center at the Boise Airport owns as well as charters a number of different planes in order to fulfill its firefighting role.

Andrus had a “common sense” rule. The cornerstone was to save the taxpayer dollar as often as possible. This meant well over 90% of the time when flying out of the nation’s capital we flew commercial airlines.

Not only that, we flew coach class and ever the politician who never missed an opportunity we had seats at the rear of the plane and boarded last (despite most airlines offering to let us board first) knowing that those on the flight who recognized the Interior secretary would also note him walking to the rear of the plane.

I can recall only four or five times chartering a corporate jet usually because there was an emergency of some sort that required his presence as soon as possible. In those instances Interior’s Air operations paid full boat for the charter unlike Congress which just required reimbursement comparable to what a round-trip ticket would cost.

The rare instances we chartered a private jet were:

    To get to Plains, Georgia for the interview with Carter we chartered Boise Cascade’s jet to get to Denver to catch the Northwest Orient flight to Atlanta.
    When one of the Andrus daughters was ill and hospitalized we had a chartered jet ready to get him from Seattle to Boise the second he deplaned an Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage.
    During a campaign trip to Texas that ran late we chartered a jet to take us from College Station to Dulles in order to make an 8 a.m. meeting in the office the next day.
    When the department’s KingAir would not start one summer morning at the Bremerton Airport, I ordered up a jet from Boeing Field to come to Bremerton and pick us up and then fly to Boise for a noon meeting and speech before the Poacher’s Club.

Two prop planes were available for the secretary’s use when traveling in the west: an AeroCommander stationed in Denver and a KingAir stationed in Boise. These planes were only used for official business, never for personal use.

As Interior Secretary Andrus also had access to the fleet of executive jets kept at Andrews Air Force Base and at Hickam Field in Hawaii which ranged in size from small Saberliners to the presidential 707’s. All these planes had the colors and markings of Air Force One with the United States of America on each side of the fuselage.

We utilized the Saberliners twice to take Andrus and his key Alaska advisors to and from Alaska for official business related to passaage of the Alaska Lands legislation. We flew first class only once that I can recall when we flew Air New Zealand for the 14-hour flight from Los Angeles to Auckland for a week long visit to New Zealand. While there the Prime Minister’s prop plane flew us to various destinations.

We then flew the vice president’s 707 back to Hawaii for a week long tour of the Trust Territories in the Pacific managed by Interior. During this week long show the flag tour we flew in a C-130 cargo plane. We added a stop on the atoll of Majuro in order to deliver emergency supplies to assist the inhabitants victimized by a sudden huge rogue wave that swept over the atoll.

I can state unequivocally we never used a Park Police helicopter period let alone for personal flights in and around the D.C. area.

The rule of common sense worked well. That coupled with an attitude towards public service that says you are privileged to serve and good service implicitly entails respecting access to taxpayer funded items. Andrus knew he was there to serve not to further his economic status by rationalizing personal use of private jets or public helicopters. Take note Secretary Zinke.

Idaho Briefing – December 18

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 18. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

With the arrival of new winter storms in many areas around Idaho, the state slows down many activities for the Christmas holiday period. Around the bend: a new legislative session and renewed activity on the political campaign front.

On December 7 the U.S. Department of State announced that formal negotiations with Canada over the fate of the fifty-three year old U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty will begin in early 2018. A broad coalition of conservation, fishing and religious organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Pacific Northwest residents, hailed the announcement.

Members of Idaho’s Congressional Delegation praise the announcement by the U.S. Department of Energy to extend the operations contract of the Battelle Energy Alliance at the Idaho National Laboratory as well-deserved reflection of their outstanding work and contributions to U.S. energy security.

Students who enroll at the College of Eastern Idaho will now be able to automatically enroll in the University of Idaho through an agreement brokered between the two schools.

Greek housing student leadership at the University of Idaho has self-imposed a moratorium on all alcohol-related activities until specific benchmarks, created by student affairs and Greek leaders, are met by each house. The moratorium is not in response to any one incident but instead a response to the growing national crisis surrounding personal violence like hazing and sexual assault, as well as alcohol abuse.

The Idaho Transportation Board approved a resolution today (Thursday, Dec. 14) to analyze three alternate locations for the Idaho Transportation Department District 4 administrative office from its current location in Shoshone to near the Interstate 84/U.S. 93 junction.

Orgill will use a $151,032 Workforce Development Training Fund grant to hire and train 167 new workers for permanent full-time positions at its Post Falls distribution center.

The numbers are in and they’re impressive. In 2017, anglers caught and removed more than 191,000 northern pikeminnow from the Columbia and Snake rivers, protecting young salmon and steelhead from predation.

PHOTO Plans were released for a replacement hospital at Nampa, to be built by the St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center organization, at I-84 and Garrity/ (Image: St. Alphonsus)