Which Senators Spent the Most Taxpayer Money Flying in Private Planes?
Hillary’s not a U.S. Senator from New York any more, but her Empire State colleagues have kept up her high-priced “private plane” habits.
American Media Institute reported this month that of the country’s 100 Senators, the top two private airplane plutocrats who blew public money on charter flight were the two members from New York: heir-apparent to Senate majority rule in November Chuck Schumer (D) (below) and Kristen Gillibrand (D) (above). They dropped $292,000 and over $150,000 respectively (2015 fiscal year).
John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) came in third with over $75,000.
Schumer and Gillibrand also accumulated the largest “credit card late fees” among any of the Senate’s members.
Schumer disclosed $2,600 and Gillibrand $3,474 in fees and charges to JP Morgan over the past fiscal year – usually a sign that the offices were late paying their credit card bills.
A Senator gets an annual office budger from $3,008,288 to $4,760,211, “based on a formula that considers the state’s population and distance from Washington, D.C., according to a Congressional Research Service study of office accounts released in February,” AMI reports.
AMI found really easy ways the Senators could have traveled like the little people and saved some money.
Schumer spent $4,707 in taxpayer funds to fly round-trip from New York to Albany in March of 2015, but United Airlines regularly makes that flight for less than $600 even if the ticket is purchased a few days before the trip.
Even more complicated flights – such as New York to Syracuse, Albany, Rochester and returning to New York in one day – cost $1,000 to $1,500, but Schumer regularly spent between $5,000 and $6,000 on such trips, records show.
Mr. Schumer employs Air Charter Express, LLC, based out of Rome, NY, for campaigning and constituent service. It has one plane, which seats six people. Michael Ezzo is the owner, and pilot.
The campaign flies for about half the cost as Schumer and his entourage do for campaign business.
The 37 flights listed on his campaign documents dating back to 2009 averaged $2,531, while the flights picked up by taxpayers from his Senate account last year averaged $5,524. The records do not list locations of travel, so a direct comparison is not possible.
Schumer’s campaign only paid for nine flights that cost more than $3,000 while the office account shows all the flights cost more than $3,000.
“Scheduling conflicts”were apparently a big deal for the busy New Yorker as well. A $3,269.50 flight in May 2015 was cancelled (but still paid for) at the last minute.
Sen. Gillibrand only flies in Zen Air planes. They have a variety of aircraft, but her records do not specify if she’s using the Cessnas or the jumbo jets. Her typical trip usually involves a $10,000 bill to taxpayers, however. This includes staff members who fly with her.
A trip in April 2015 for Gillibrand and two staffers from Washington, D.C. to Plattsburg, Rochester, Buffalo and back to D.C. cost taxpayers more than $15,000 – about $5,000 for her travel and $10,000 for staff. A similar itinerary on a travel website shows an economy fair of about $1,600 per person, a total of $4,800 with just a two-day advanced purchase.
Senator Barrasso notes long distances across the large state of Wyoming. But unlike his GOP colleague Mike Enzi (who used about $10,000 in total private planes in F.Y. 2015), Barrasso loves expensive charter flights.
In the year ending last September, Barrasso charged taxpayers for $75,411 in charter flights. The charges included a $10,760.75 bill for a March 2015 flight around a half-dozen small cities in Wyoming and a $5,219.13 flight from Cody to Casper and back in September.
Travel websites show regular flights between Cody and Casper for less than $800 last-minute and even a direct flight by Linear Air Taxi for less than $2,000.
The most frugal senator was Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, who regularly sends an unspent portion of his annual appropriation back to the U.S. Treasury, keeping his staff small and his travel to a minimum. The taxpayers’ total cost for Shelby’s upkeep in 2015 came to about $1.7 million, records show.
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