Haley Barbour takes heat for jet trips
Just a week after coming under fire for saying he didn't remember the civil-rights era being that bad, Politico reports that Mississippi governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate Haley Barbour (R) has been flying lavishly on the taxpayer's dime. According to records, Mississippi has spent $500,000 over the past three years on Barbour's air travel in a private Cessna jet. He has used the plane "to go to fundraisers for himself and other Republican candidates and committees, to football games and to at least one boxing match," Politico reports.
On the afternoon of March 7, 2010, for instance, Barbour's state-owned plane arrived in Las Vegas to pick up the governor. The official purpose of the taxpayer-funded trip on state forms was a "project meeting," but Barbour had other reasons to be in Las Vegas.
According to the Mississippi Business Journal, Barbour had invited donors to his state political action committee to drive a stock car around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and then to join him and casino mogul Steve Wynn for drinks -- for a $5,000 contribution. The stop to pick up Barbour was not reimbursed to the state.
[Barbour spokesman Dan] Turner said it coincided with a necessary refueling stop, but POLITICO's review of the records show the plane also stopped in Lubbock, Tex., before picking up Barbour in Las Vegas.
A month later, in April 2010, the state plane flew to New Orleans to pick the governor up from the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, a key stop on the early 2012 presidential circuit. Barbour also made time for a $10,000-a-plate GOP fundraiser at the New Orleans food palace Brennan's before hopping the Cessna to a Canadian trade summit on the Gulf Coast.
"Canada is the No. 1 export destination for Mississippi trade," Turner said in an e-mail.
Turner dismissed criticism of Barbour's air travel, which according to Politico has not garnered much attention in Mississippi, though one state Democrat has introduced a bill to sell the Cessna.
"Gov. Barbour is an effective marketing tool in a state that really needs it," [Turner] said in an e-mail. "In other states, people don't necessarily appreciate the idea of a governor being so outgoing about promoting the state, whether it's in Congress or in boardrooms."
It's not uncommon for the expenses of governors who flirt with running for higher office to come under scrutiny. In 2008, The Post reported that then-Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin billed taxpayers for a per diem allowance for hundreds of nights spent at her own home, as well as travel expenses for her family when they accompanied her on out-of-town trips. As Politico notes, other potential 2012 GOP candidates, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, have been scaling back their use of state planes.
| December 27, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency, Eye on 2012, Haley Barbour
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