CNN reported on Wednesday that Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) plans to reimburse taxpayers $5,700 for a charter flight she took eleven months ago in September 2013 from Shreveport, Louisiana to Dallas, Texas to attend a campaign fundraiser. It is against the law for elected public officials to pay for campaign activities with taxpayer funds.
This new report comes on the heels of a CNN report on Tuesday that Senator Landrieu reimbursed taxpayers $3,200 on August 4 for a round trip charter flight she took from New Orleans to a St. Charles, Louisiana campaign fundraiser on November 8, 2013.
CNN reported that Matthew Lehner, Senator Landrieu’s director of communications, issued a statement on Wednesday attempting to explain this latest uncovered use of taxpayer funds for political purposes. “Sen. Landrieu was invited to an official evening event in Shreveport. She was traveling back to D.C. through Dallas, and a fundraiser in Dallas was added to her schedule. Out of an abundance of caution in case there was a cost allocation error connected to this flight, the Senate will be reimbursed for the (Shreveport to Dallas) flight.”
Lehner’s suggestion that Landrieu’s charter flight from Shreveport, Louisiana back to Washington, D.C. was required to travel through Dallas, Texas stretches credulity. Dallas is 185 miles due west of Shreveport. Stopping in Dallas required going in the exact opposite direction of a direct flight plan east from Shreveport to Washington, D.C.
Landrieu’s Republican opponents looking to defeat her in November’s general election jumped on the growing scandal.
In a statement about this new charter flight revelation, Colonel Rob Maness said “[e]very day, new details about Sen. Mary Landrieu’s questionable and illegal use of taxpayer dollars are exposed.”
“This isn’t an isolated incident, it’s an ongoing pattern-of-behavior,” Maness added. “It’s just as alarming that Sen. Landrieu has publicly acknowledged that absent this new scrutiny on how she uses taxpayer dollars, none of her activities would have been revisited. What does it say about Sen. Landrieu that the only reason why she won’t continue to carelessly use taxpayer dollars to pay for charter flights, luxury hotels and political activities is because she got caught?”
Landrieu’s other major Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, had previously criticized Landrieu’s late reimbursement of a charter flight to the Lake Charles, Louisiana campaign fundraiser.
News of this second previously unreported use of taxpayer funds for campaign events by Senator Landrieu is certain to intensify scrutiny of every taxpayer funded trip Landrieu has taken during her three terms in the United States Senate. With the discovery of two campaign trips funded by the taxpayers already, it seems likely that additional revelations may well be on their way.