Wealthy Dem Sen. Jay Rockefeller Bills Taxpayers for Private Charter Flights
West Virginia Democrat Sen. Jay Rockefeller is one of the wealthiest U.S. senators, having a reported estimated worth north of $100 million. Nonetheless, he makes taxpayers pay for his private charter flights to West Virginia.
According to a Washington Examiner report, "Rockefeller's 32 trips in the past three years cost taxpayers $141,408 for the chartered aircraft." His travel costs, the outlet noted, is "greater than all but 11 senators," but "only four members of the Senate traveled home less frequently."
As the Examiner explained, "Rockefeller goes home less often than nearly every other member of Congress, yet his total travel costs are among the highest, all despite representing a state that on a clear day can almost be seen from the Capitol dome."
Though "there are as many as six commercial flights a day between D.C." and Charleston, West Virginia, with a round-trip ticket costing "as little as $206," Rockefeller "charters his flights through Martinair Inc., a Virginia company that rents 12-seaters for $4,000 an hour, plus fuel and other charges."
According to the Examiner report, on April 21, 2012, Rockefeller, who is a member of a famous family, "billed taxpayers $5,980 for a same-day trip from Washington to Charleston and back." Furthermore, Rockefeller reportedly "billed taxpayers $10,654 for a two-day trip on Sept. 5-6, 2013," and "for one trip from Feb. 28 to March 1 of this year," Rockefeller charged taxpayers $9,657.
The Examiner found that "his economic development director, Brandy Lynn Messer, made the same trip one month earlier for $300--and also managed to check in on two other West Virginia towns while she was there." In addition, "40 members of his staff traveled back and forth regularly for less than half that price, combined," even though "for 12 of Rockefeller's 32 trips over the past three years, the charter flights alone cost taxpayers more than $7,000."
Rockefeller represents one of the poorest states in the nation, as the state's per capita annual income is $22,000. He has met with "residents fewer than 11 times per year, even though his home state is only an hour away." Senators representing states as far as Alaska have traveled more--and for less--the report found.
Rockefeller, part of D.C.'s permanent political class since he was elected to the Senate in 1985, reportedly owns "a palatial mansion worth an estimated $18 million and built on one of the largest housing tracts in the District" with a reported "11 bathrooms on one floor alone." Rockefeller, however, uses taxpayer dollars to fund his travels. The Examiner found that Rockefeller even billed taxpayers $12.75 after he was "in and around Charleston."