I wrote yesterday about the company General Atomics, the pork-loving defense contractor who generously provided a trip to Italy for a senior aide to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and her spouse. Lewis, of course, is now reportedly under federal investigation.
Guess what? General Atomics had a much more frequent flier on the senior staff of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), Lewis' longtime colleague and pal on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, which doles out Pentagon dollars. (Duke's now doing eight years plus of hard time in the pokey for taking bribes from defense contractors).
For the past four years, former Cunningham legislative director Nancy Lifset traveled annually on General Atomics' dime. Or rather, on General Atomics' $36,000, which is roughly the combined cost of her trips. Of course, given the hundreds of millions of federal dollars that Lifset's boss was helping funnel to General Atomics via unrequested Pentagon contracts, I'm sure they could afford it.
I have not had a chance to ask Lifset about the purposes of those trips; she left the Hill last month, and her home number is not listed in the D.C. area. However, federal investigators have had a chance to chat with her -- she is the only Cunningham staffer confirmed to have been subpoenaed by prosecutors.
Where did Lifset go on GA's dime? In 2002, she spent 10 days in "various locations" in Italy, according to congressional travel records. The purpose of the trip, she reported, was "visits to NATO facilities and manufacturers of U.S. defense equipment, meeting with U.S. embassy representatives in Italy." Her airfare alone cost nearly $2,800; the total trip was over $5,000.
In 2003, Lifset took a 10-day jaunt to Berlin "to visit General Atomics facilities in Germany related to U.S. and NATO security, and U.S. military operations located there." That jaunt cost General Atomic nearly $7,000.
In 2004, Lifset went on an eight-day whirlwind tour of Turkey (Ankara and Istanbul) and made a stop in Rome. She met with "Turkish and Italian government officials and contractors to discuss NATO interoperability and related military issues." She also reported meeting with U.S. embassy and "government officials" in both countries. Ring that one up at nearly $10,000.
And in 2005, Lifset went to Australia for nine days "to visit with Australian officials, military and others engaged in U.S.-Australian mutual security issues." That one set General Atomics back more than $14,000, including $38.35 in "sundry items, newspapers, etc." that Lifset appears to have charged to the company.
In what I'm sure is unrelated news, the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that the Australian Air Force is planning to try out several of General Atomics' Predator drones.