When the controversy surrounding Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) use of taxpayer funds to pay for campaign travel first broke back in August, her Senate office spokesperson Matthew Lehner promised Landrieu would produce a full report of her travel activities “by the time” the Senate returned from its August recess and returned to session in September.
By Thursday, the fourth day since the Senate’s September session began, Landrieu has produced diddly squat.
Efforts to contact Lehner, who made that promise on her behalf, resulted in an automatic email saying that, as of September 2, he no longer worked in her congressional office. Calls to her campaign were not returned.
On August 16, Lehner said 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.”
The Advocate reported at the time that “[t]he results of the review will be released publicly by the time the Senate returns on Sept. 8 from its August recess, the spokesman [for Senator Landrieu] said.”
On Thursday, WGMB TV in Louisiana reported “an investigation into who paid for Senator Mary Landrieu’s ‘travel’ will wrap up this week. Right now —Team Landrieu is completing their look at ’18 years worth’ of travel documents.”
The local TV station added that “they’re making sure all us taxpayers didn’t pay for any of Landrieu’s speaking engagements… or campaign stops. That would be illegal!”
Landrieu has already admitted that she used taxpayer funds to pay for two campaign trips: $3,200 for a round trip air charter flight from New Orleans to Lake Charles in September 2013, and $5,700 to pay for another charter flight from Shreveport, Louisiana to Dallas, Texas to attend a campaign event in November, 2013. It is against the law for elected officials to use taxpayer funds to pay for campaign events.
Though Landrieu’s aides have claimed the Senate office expenditures for these political purposes have been reimbursed by the campaign, Breitbart News reported earlier that her congressional office was only reimbursed with a credit for a future private charter flight – not with the money she used to purchase the flight.
WGMB also noted that “it’s taking a little longer than expected, but Landrieu’s campaign says they’ll have answers by the end of the week.”
The conspicuous missing report is drawing speculation from Republicans that Landrieu may be planning to issue a Friday “news dump” in an attempt to bury what might be quite damaging news. The embattled Landrieu is one of the most politically vulnerable incumbents in the country.
A recent poll by CBS News/The New York Times/YouGov, for instance, conducted between August 18 and September 2, shows that Landrieu trails Republican challenger Representative Bill Cassidy (R-LA) by a 38% to 36% margin. Another Republican challenger, Tea Party favorite Colonel Rob Maness, polls at 10%.
It is unusual for an incumbent Senator to poll at only 36% less than two months before the general election.
Landrieu’s best opportunity to retain her seat is to finish in the top two in Louisiana’s unique “jungle primary” on November 4. Under the “jungle primary” system, if no candidate receives 50% +1 of the votes cast, the top two finishers compete exclusively in a December runoff. With control of the Senate possibly in the balance and only one race to be determined, Landrieu can expect to be the recipient of significant financial assistance from Democratic donors and liberal organizations around the country in a runoff.