Politics: Mixing Business With Pleasure

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South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds is defending his use of government aircraft (which he frequently flies himself) to attend, among other things, his son's high school basketball games, saying he always makes sure some state business gets done at the same time if taxpayers are picking up the tab. Now, according to an Associated Press report, South Dakota is one of seven states that doesn't mind if its elected officials mix a little pleasure with business when they take to the skies as long as taxpayers aren't on the hook for it. But the cozy deal that Rounds has with something called the Governor's Club, a private fund of political contributors, might raise some eyebrows at the FAA. When Rounds, for instance, flew to Las Vegas twice in 2004 for Republican Party events, the Governor's Club paid the $12,760 tab. But the state's three aircraft are registered under Part 91 and collecting money for a point-to-point flight by someone not on state business would seem to be a Part 135 activity. Next door in Montana, it's all business aboard the state aircraft. "If we took money for a flight from an entity which does not share our common treasury, we would be operating our airplane for commercial purposes," Mary Jo Murray, a spokeswoman for Montana Gov. Brian Schwietzer, told The Associated Press.