The head of President Obama's National Economic Council flew on Citigroup's corporate jet from the Democratic National Convention in Denver back to New York last year, the White House confirmed Tuesday.
Larry Summers was not a paid member of the Obama campaign staff at the time, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said, adding that neither Summers nor the campaign had any obligation to disclose his travel on the corporate jet of a company that later would receive billions in federal bailout money.
Summers was a visible adviser in the general election and appeared on the stump as an economic heavyweight who could add credibility to Obama's economic positions.
Vietor said Summers arranged his own commercial air travel to Denver and paid for his hotel but used the Citi jet for the return flight from the convention to Citigroup's corporate hangar at an airport in White Plains, N.Y. Citigroup paid for Summers' flight and the taxes he would have been responsible for. Vietor said the Obama campaign had no obligation to reimburse Citigroup for the cost of the flight.
Since joining the administration, Summers has had a voice in dealings with Citigroup, including administration objections to the planned purchase of another jet and the role the Treasury Department will play in attempting to stabilize Citigroup and other banking giants whose stock values have suffered through the economic downturn.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently ordered Citigroup to cancel plans to purchase a $50 million French-made corporate jet -- a purchase the Obama administration attacked as wasteful in light of Citigroup's receipt of $45 billion in bailout funds.
"Mr. Summers traveled to the DNC as a private citizen and was responsible for arranging his own travel and lodging, all of which occurred long before Mr. Summers became a government employee," Vietor said in a statement.
Summers and former Citigroup Director and Senior Counselor Robert Rubin both have resumes that reach back to the Clinton administration. Summers and Rubin each served as treasury secretary under Clinton. Rubin was Clinton's first head of the National Economic Council, the position Summers now holds.