On Friday, a defensive Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) announced that she has ordered a review of all chartered flights she has taken during her eighteen years in office, according to The Times-Picayune.
Landrieu’s re-election campaign is reeling from revelations that at least two taxpayer funded charter flights she took last year have been to attend campaign events. The use of taxpayer funds for campaign purposes is strictly illegal.
The move was seen as an attempt to anticipate future revelations. While a third instance of such a flight has not been discovered, the media, led by CNN, ABC, and Breitbart News, are scrutinizing the details of every chartered flight Landrieu has taken while working in the Senate.
According to Senate office spokesperson Matthew Lehner, “Sen. Landrieu has ordered that counsel review all payments made with official funds for her flights during her 18 years of service in the Senate. The counsel will also review internal office procedures and make recommendations to ensure accurate payments are made in the future.”
Lehner added that the full results of the review will be made public prior to the time the Senate returns to session in September.
Breitbart News reported that Landrieu took more than eight months to reimburse the taxpayers for a $3,200 chartered flight charge made to the Senator’s office by Butler Aviation, a Houma, Louisiana air charter company, who flew Landrieu round trip from New Orleans to St. Charles to attend a campaign event on November 8, 2013.
Landrieu’s campaign spokesperson, Fabien Levy, told the The Times-Picayune on Friday that “[t]he vendor [Butler Aviation] credited the Senate office for the $3,200 flight on July 29, and the campaign paid for the expense on Aug. 4.”
A second taxpayer funded charter flight from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Dallas, Texas in September 2013 to attend a campaign fundraiser was originally billed to the taxpayers. Landrieu announced this week that she will reimburse taxpayers for the $5,700 charged by Butler Aviation to her Senate office for that flight back in September. That reimbursement, however, has apparently not yet been made.
USA Today reported that the $8,900 originally billed to taxpayers for these two flights amounts to 19 percent of Senator Landrieu’s charter flight expenditures last year.
Also on Friday, one of Landrieu’s Republican challengers, Congressman Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) announced that he has raised more money and has more cash-on-hand than Landrieu. According to a CBS poll released on July 27, Cassidy now enjoys a small lead over Landrieu in a two-way race.
In Louisiana’s unusual open primary system, the November election is non-partisan and open to all qualified candidates. A candidate can only win the election in November if they obtain more than 50 percent of the votes cast.
Cassidy is not the only Republican seeking to oust Landrieu. Colonel Rob Maness is a Republican challenger who has also been critical of Landrieu’s high-flying taxpayer funded ways. In a poll released by Public Policy Polling on July 1, in a three way race, Landrieu receives 44 percent of the vote, far short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff election with the second place finisher. In that same poll, Cassidy received 27 percent of the vote and Maness received eight percent.
In the event no candidate obtains 50 percent of the vote in November, a two person run-off between the top two finishers will be held in December.