The Campaign Spot

Chuck Schumer’s Bad Week, Part Three of Five

How much money do you spend on travel each year?

If the amount is small in these troubled times, then perhaps you pay more for New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s journeys, as he travels more than Patrick Ewing, and at your expense.

Strangely, this 2009 story didn’t make a particularly big splash in New York:

Sens. John Cornyn and Chuck Schumer each spent more than $140,000 in taxpayer money on travel in the first half of the fiscal year — roughly 10 times as much as some of their thriftier colleagues… Schumer, a Democrat, ran up the second-highest bill by routinely flying private charters to cities in New York served by commercial airlines. On Dec. 2, for example, Schumer spent $4,000 to take a private plane from New York City to Albany and back again. Delta and US Airways both fly that 140-mile route several times a day, with fares ranging from around $400 to less than $200 if purchased in advance.

Asked about the senator’s use of charter flights, Schumer’s office released a statement saying that he promised when he first ran for office that he would visit each of New York’s 62 counties every year — and that he’s kept that promise by using “a small, propeller plane to make as many as five stops across upstate New York and hundreds of visits each year.”

“We are living in a world where members of Congress are treating themselves to an elite lifestyle on the taxpayers’ dime,” said Leslie Paige, spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste. “Charter flights should be the choice of last resort. It shouldn’t be used like a cab. It’s the most carbon-intensive and expensive way to fly.”

His explanation doesn’t quite add up: “In most cases, Schumer traveled to cities within 30 minutes of an international airport, some of them served by hourly commercial flights for as little as $49 each way. Five years ago, during his first reelection campaign, Schumer answered accusations that he had spent more than $400,000 in taxpayer funds on chartered trips during his six-year Senate term.”

ABC News observed, “On one typical flight, Schumer spent $3,618.23 for a round trip between New York City and Albany, N.Y. A commercial ticket for the same route typically can be purchased for about $218.” 

Mind you, Chuck Schumer has no problem denouncing other federal workers for spending a lot of money on travel:

Sen. Charles Schumer Monday accused federal fisheries police of exploiting millions in fishermen’s fines as a “slush fund for excess,” and demanded money be returned to those wrongly or over-penalized.

The demand comes in response to revelations that the law enforcement arm of the National Marine Fisheries Service, which polices national fishing grounds, spent millions on unauthorized travel…

Perhaps New Yorkers have just gotten used to their senator flying in private jets at their expense. Six years ago:

Howard Mills’ staff pored over documents and maps and found that during his years in office, Mr. Schumer chartered private planes 603 times, spending $409,253 of taxpayer money. They asserted that they had caught the senator using tax dollars to fly around the state to raise campaign cash, which would be illegal, and turned their findings over to The New York Times.

Asked for a response to Mr. Mills’s claims, Mr. Schumer’s staff began its own review, and found that on some 35 occasions, Mr. Schumer had let taxpayers foot the bill for his political and fund-raising trips.

It was, if nothing else, a humbling moment for Mr. Schumer, a Democrat, whose office described the questionable billing as ‘’accounting errors.’’ After having tried to effectively ignore his opponent as irrelevant, Mr. Schumer’s staff instead had to announce that the senator’s campaign was — because of Mr. Mills’s initial inquiries — returning some $20,000 to the federal government.

Sometimes Schumer has other folks pick up the tab; like Barbara Boxer, Schumer spent a week as he Punta Mita beach resort in Mexico in January 2005. The Aspen Institute picked up the tab, a mere $7,065.68.

Curiously, among the other free trips Schumer has taken are two to Washington D.C. – you know, the city he works in. In July 2005, ABC News paid $3,736.25 to have Schumer in the nation’s capital for an appearance on panel discussion on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” In July 2001, NBC got a relative bargain, paying only $1,540 to bring Schumer to Washington to appear on “Meet the Press.” This is probably more of a scandal for network news booking agents.


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