Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) found that over $33,700 in campaign flights were inappropriately charged to her official account in an internal review of her finances released Friday.
The report is sure to draw added scrutiny to her use of charter planes just as her main opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), is set to introduce a resolution meant to highlight such spending, which he calls a “waste of Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars.”
The review, which was released four days after her self-imposed deadline of Sept. 8, found that the senator took 43 trips, which amounted to 136 campaign functions, that were paid for by funds meant for official business only. Eleven percent of the total amount Landrieu’s office paid for chartered flights should have been paid out of her campaign funds, the review found.
Landrieu’s office said she fully reimbursed the Treasury with campaign funds and has notified the Senate Ethics Committee of the errors. She also said in a statement that she’s implemented a new bookkeeping system to prevent similar errors from happening again.
“The review I ordered last month found these mistakes stemming from sloppy book keeping. I take full responsibility. They should have never happened, and I apologize for this,” Landrieu said. “A new system has been established that has been successfully used by a number of senate offices to provide a safeguard from this happening in the future.”
Landrieu ordered the internal review after it was reported that she inappropriately used $3,200 in official funds to pay for a flight to and from a campaign event in November. That report sparked criticism from Republicans, and inspired an attack ad that claimed Landrieu “lives like a movie star.”
The release of Landrieu’s internal review again prompted Republicans to hammer Landrieu on the issue.
“With 43 illegal flights and more than 100 campaign events, this was clearly policy of her office to use taxpayer means whenever possible to attend events,” said Louisiana Republican Party Executive Director Jason Dore. “Mary’s staff has changed. The donors have changed. The one thing that has been constant is this is Mary Landrieu’s office. She’s the one responsible for this practice going on in her office.”
Cassidy’s bill would require members of Congress to report any funds used to pay for private chartered planes to the Ethics Committee or the Committee on House Administration within 30 days of the flight.
“Taking charter planes unnecessarily is a waste of Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars. It makes no sense to fly on a $3,000 private jet if you can get to the same location in a few hours’ drive time and a $50 tank of gas,” he said in a statement obtained by The Hill. “Washington’s spending is out of control and this is one of the reasons why. Ensuring that Washington is transparent and tax dollars are spent wisely is a priority.”
Cassidy’s office said constituents had expressed alarm at Landrieu’s use of chartered planes, which had partially inspired the resolution.
Landrieu remains one of Democrats’ most vulnerable senators, and the most recent poll showed a tight race, with Cassidy leading Landrieu by two points. Many expect the three-way primary fight, between Cassidy, Landrieu and Tea Party-backed Rob Maness, to head to a runoff this fall.
Polling shows a tight race.