Landrieu to Reimburse Senate for Charter Flight

Image: Landrieu to Reimburse Senate for Charter Flight Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. (Jan Somma-Hammel/Staten Island Advance/Landov)

Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 11:18 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu says she will repay the Senate nearly $6,000 for a charter flight she took last September, after questions arose about the costs for the trip.

Last September, she chartered the plane for a short trip from New Orleans to Shreveport for an official event, and from there she went on to Dallas for a fundraiser, CNN reported.

However, federal law and rules in the Senate require that the cost of trips that include both official and campaign stops to be prorated between accounts for the Senate and campaign, but the activity is "incidental," the expenses do not need to be split.

"Sen. Landrieu was invited to an official evening event in Shreveport," said her spokesman, Matthew Lerner. "She was traveling back to D.C. through Dallas, and a fundraiser in Dallas was added to her schedule. Out of an abundance of caution in case there was a cost allocation error connected to this flight, the Senate will be reimbursed for the [Shreveport to Dallas] flight."

According to a Senate aide, Lancaster's office considered the Dallas fundraiser incidental, because she had already planned to be in the city, and did not believe the expense needed to be partially covered by the campaign, not by taxpayer dollars.

More than $3,200 of the trip, paid for in taxpayer dollars, was spent for Landrieu to fly a 400-mile round trip from New Orleans to Lake Charles, Louisiana, for a $40-per-person women's luncheon, Senate and campaign records say. However, it is against federal law to spend government funds on campaigns.

On Monday, Fabien Levy, Landrieu's campaign spokesman, said the charter company had sent the bill to her Senate office in error instead of to her re-election campaign, and after the campaign noticed the error a few weeks ago, it asked the company to reimburse the Senate office and bill the senator's campaign.

After that, he said, Landrieu's campaign paid for the in-state flight on Aug. 4, nearly three months after the Nov. 8 flight.

"We take our finances very seriously and are glad we caught the vendor's mistake and were able to rectify the matter as soon as possible," Levy said.

He noted that the campaign did not catch the mistake until July 29.

Two days later, USA Today reported Landrieu had spent $47,000 last year on charter flights funded by taxpayers, as one of the Senate's most frequent travelers.

The flights aren't the only thing Landrieu is spending taxpayer money on, reports the Sunlight Foundation, which found that Landrieu used more than $14,700 in taxpayer money to take her staff on a three-day Annapolis, Maryland, retreat in 2012.

She also spent money on off-site staff retreats in 2011, when meeting at the International House and in New Orleans cost $20,124 and a 2013 meeting in Washington D.C. cost taxpayers $8,441.

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