Black takes campaign trip on jet linked to company she helped in Congress and that helped her in fundraising

On a day of campaigning for governor last month, U.S. Rep. Diane Black flew from Chattanooga to Paris, Tenn., and back on a plane linked to Fitzgerald Glider Kits, reports The Tennessean. That’s the Crossville  company that received some media attention in February after getting an exemption with Black’s help from federal vehicle emission standards for the truck engines it makes —  and which has bundled $225,000 in donations to her gubernatorial campaign.

A Black spokesman says there’s nothing improper there; that she paid for the flight and it will be duly reported on her next campaign financial disclosure. The story says Black flew on the 2017 Embraer Phenom 300 twin-jet airplane from Chattanooga to West Tennessee on the morning of April 27 to attend the Paris Fish Fry, then used it to fly back to Chattanooga that evening to attend the Hamilton County Lincoln Day Dinner where she met with, among others, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

… If Black was running for re-election to her House seat, Federal Election Commission rules would prohibit her from taking a flight on the plane.

“House candidates…are generally prohibited from engaging in non-commercial campaign travel on aircraft,” FEC rules say. “This prohibition cannot be avoided by payments to the service provider, even if the payments derive from the personal funds of a House candidate.”

No such prohibition exists under Tennessee’s laws. 

… In addition, attorney Jonathan Toomey, who used to work in Black’s legislative office, is now the federal lobbyist for Fitzgerald Glider Kits.

Although some federal government employees are required to have a one-year period during which they are unable to lobby lawmakers after working for them, Toomey did not face such a prohibition because he did not make enough money while working for Black. 

Black’s federal disclosures indicate Toomey stopped working for her on Sept. 4. Fitzgerald’s lobbying report for the same time period shows by Oct. 20, he was the company’s only lobbyist.

It’s unclear when Toomey started lobbying for the company but Fitzgerald’s disclosure report listed spending $13,000 on lobbying during the third quarter of the year. 

(Blackburn campaign spokesman Chris) Hartline defended Black’s relationship with the Fitzgeralds, who he said are major job creators in her congressional district. 

“Not many companies are willing to expand and hire workers in rural Tennessee communities,” Hartline said. “Diane will always fight for those that are.”

Note: Initial post on Black-Fitzgerald dealings HERE. A follow-up post HERE.

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