Schwarzenegger sends military jet to pick up ailing legislator
Trip costs taxpayers nearly $150,000
A military jet staffed with a 15-member medical team swept into Brazil last month on the orders of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to retrieve an ailing state senator from a coastal hospital.
The trip cost taxpayers $147,187, Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson said. But she said it was necessary given the circumstances described by aides of Sen. John Vasconcellos, who checked himself into a clinic after feeling chest pains during a nine-day goodwill trip to Brazil.
"They called and asked. The senator was in distress and transporting him back was a sensitive issue," Margita Thompson told the Los Angeles Times. "Obviously, he needed medical attention. There was definitely something wrong."
There is no indication that Schwarzenegger did anything illegal in authorizing the trip. But the state could have saved a considerable amount of money by chartering a jet with a medical crew rather than using the military aircraft, the Times reported.
The 72-year-old Vasconcellos, who has returned to work in the Capitol, said he had heart bypass surgery 20 years ago and was worried that he might have been suffering a heart attack. He checked himself into a hospital specializing in heart and lung problems in the coastal town of Salvador and stayed five days before the flight home.
The California Air National Guard flew to Brazil on April 12 and brought the Democratic lawmaker home on a direct, 13-hour flight to Moffett Field near San Jose.
Although Schwarzenegger ordered the trip, officials from the Pentagon also had to approve the flight because it took place outside state boundaries.