WASHINGTON, September 15, 2014 – Mary Landreiu (LA-D) is offering an apology, but she may just be sorry she got caught.
The Democratic senator from Louisiana, in a bid to retain her hotly contested 2014 mid-term seats, likes to travel in style and in order to buzz around the state of Louisiana she spent more than $47,000 on taxpayer-funded private charter flights.
Vying for a fourth term, the senator found herself the subject of inquiry from the Louisiana Republican Party because Landreiu, who lives in DC does not have a permanent address in the state she serves. She claims her partial ownership of her mother’s New Orleans home qualified.
The party also suspected she illegally used taxpayer money to fund her campaign travel. Landrieu previously admitted two campaign trips were paid for out of her Senate account saying she paid them back or corrected the mistake in bookkeeping.
A deeper investigation into her travel revealed more than $33,000 of taxpayer-funded charter flights were taken in order to get the Senator to fundraising and other campaign related events.
$33,000 would just about cover a year of tuition and fees at Louisiana State University. $33,000 is about a years salary for Firefighters in Alexandria, Municipal Court clerks in New Orleans, Dental Laboratory technicians n Shreveport or Pest Control Workers in Lafayette.
In other words, for a lot of people living in the state of Louisiana, $33,000 is a lot of money.
“President Reagan said it best, ‘trust but verify.’ A disturbing pattern of behavior has emerged where Washington politicians are playing by a different set of rules and holding themselves to a completely different standard,” Col. Rob Maness (USAF, Ret), a Republican challenger for the Senate seat, told CommDigiNews. “Sen. Landrieu’s excessive abuse of taxpayer dollars for charter planes and luxury retreats reveals just how out-of-touch she has become and why you can no longer just give the Senator the benefit of the doubt.”
And Landreiu just did not notice the errors in accounting, nor did her staff. Not until CNN pointed them out.
All those trips charged to her Senate account means that all the taxpayers of the great state of Louisiana, republican, democrat, independent and libertarian, are helping to foot her re-election bid to a state she does not live in.
Landreiu states she self-reported the errors to the Senate Ethics Committee, fully repaying the treasury with campaign funds.
“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 released the report four days after the initial self-imposed deadline of Sept. 8. That report reports that 43 out of 163 trips the senator took since 2002, were paid for using Senate office money.
But that is kind if disingenuous of the Senator as the reason she launched the investigation is that CNN reported on August 14, 2014, that she had charted a private plane to travel from New Orleans to Shreveport for an official event, but then used the plan to travel on to Dallas, where she attended a fundraiser.
Under the Senate’s rule and federal law, any trip that includes both official business and campaign business must be prorated. Tax payers money is not there to help either party raise more money.
“If the internal audit Sen. Landrieu conducted was as exhaustive as we have all been led to believe, she should be able to immediately produce specific details about each flight.” Maness says. “The taxpayers who foot-the-bill have a right to know what was done with their money and if the Senator refuses to provide full disclosure for these flights, she should immediately refund taxpayers for these ‘mixed-purpose’ chartered flights.”
According to CNN Landreiu used government (taxpayer) money last November to fly 400 miles round trip from New Orleans to Lake Charles, Louisiana at a hefty cost of $3,200. The purpose of that trip was to attend a $40 per person fundraising lunch.