Embattled Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu came under fire in August for using taxpayer money to jet to campaign fundraisers in potential violation of campaign-finance law. Now, evidence is surfacing that the practice may have been a common one for third-term senator, currently locked in a tight race for reelection.
The Republican National Committee is alleging that Landrieu tapped Senate funds to cover the cost of her fundraising trips in instances dating back more than a dozen years, and did so nine times between 2000 and 2008. On May 31, 2000, according to her Senate expense report, Landrieu took a $1,531.88 chartered flight from New Orleans to Alexandria, La.. The RNC identified 13 donors who gave Landrieu $1,000 in Alexandria and nine more who gave $250 to $500 in the same location on the same day.
It’s something of a pattern. On March 16, 2002, for example, Landrieu took a $1,343.75 chartered flight from New Orleans to Ruston, La.; the next day, according to her expense report, she took another chartered flight from nearby Monroe to several more destinations. The RNC identified two donors who gave Landrieu $1000 in Monroe and eight more who gave $500 at the same location.
In total, the documents suggest taxpayers footed a bill of nearly $18,000 for the nine campaign stops, in which Landrieu raked in more than $80,000.
After evidence surfaced in August that Landrieu had billed taxpayers for two 2012 campaign trips, she announced a full review of her air travel, and a Landrieu spokesman told the Baton Rouge-based Advocate that the review would be completed by the time the Senate returned from its August recess on September 8. The self-imposed deadline, however, passed without any disclosure from Landrieu’s office..
“With at least 9 more potentially illegal taxpayer-funded charter flights in question, it’s clear why Senator Landrieu decided not to release her report on time,” RNC spokesman Michael Short tells National Review Online. “These flights suggest a longstanding pattern of abuse of taxpayer dollars dating back to her first term in office – not a bookkeeping error – and a strong contempt for hardworking Louisiana taxpayers. If Senator Landrieu is serious about accountability and transparency, she must open up all of her records to the media for further examination.”
Landrieu is one of the country’s most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, and poll numbers show her running head to head with her challenger, Republican congressman Bill Cassidy. Her campaign office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.