This was the other shoe we all figured would drop sooner or later on the Air Mary scandal, and now it has.
Landrieu had said after the first two rounds of disclosure that she had used her Senate office funds to charter planes to and from fundraising events, which is a violation of federal law, that a full audit of her expenditures would be taken and the results made known to the public. Except the deadline she gave for that audit to be made public came and went without a word being said by her camp. So today, the Republican National Committee performed their own audit of Landrieu’s travel expenses and struck gold. A gleeful press release tumbled onto the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s website as a result…
The RNC report details suspicious taxpayer-funded flights that correspond with donations received on the same day of her travel dating back to the year 2000. These suspicious flights are listed below:
- Exhibit A – 5/31/2000: Landrieu Took A Chartered Flight From New Orleans To Alexandria May 31, 2000, At A Cost Of $1,531.88
- Exhibit B – 3/16/2002 – 3/17/2002: Landrieu Took A Chartered Flight From New Orleans To Ruston On March 16, 2002, At A Cost Of $1,343.75. Landrieu Then Took A Chartered Flight From Monroe To Many Destinations On March 17, 2002 At A Cost Of $1,290.00. NOTE: According To Google Maps, Ruston Is Less Than A 45 Minute Drive From Monroe. (Google Maps, Accessed 8/15/14)
- Exhibit C – 4/3/2002 – 4/4/2002: Landrieu Took A Chartered Flight From New Orleans To Deridder And Lafayette On April 3, 2002, At A Cost Of $1,241.09. Landrieu Took A Round-Trip Flight From Baton Rouge To Lafayette, Ruston, Mansfield, And Alexandria On April 4, 2002, At A Cost Of $2,350.93.
- Exhibit D – 7/22/2005: Landrieu Took A Round-Trip Chartered Flight From New Orleans To Opelousas And Slidell On July 22, 2005, At A Cost Of $950.00.
- Exhibit E – 8/21/2005: Landrieu Took A Chartered Flight From Monroe To Alexandria On August 13, 2005, At A Cost Of $1,100.00. NOTE: According To Google Maps, Colfax, Lecompte, Marksville, Winnfield, And Natchitoches Are Less Than A One Hour Drive From Alexandria. Landrieu Took A Round-Trip Chartered Flight From Houma To Slidell And Lafayette On August 21, 2005, At A Cost Of $1,325.00.
- Exhibit F – 8/25/2005: Landrieu Took A Chartered Flight From Slidell To Lake Charles, Jennings, And Baton Rouge On August 25, 2005, At A Cost Of $1,655.00. NOTE: According To Google Maps, Plaquemine And White Castle Are Within 45 Minutes Of Baton Rouge.
- Exhibit G – 5/18/2008: Landrieu Took A Round-Trip Chartered Flight From New Orleans To Monroe On May 18, 2008, At A Cost Of $2379.88. NOTE: According To Google Maps, Rayville Is Less Than A 30 Minute Drive From Monroe.
- Exhibit H – 8/14/2008: Landrieu Took A Chartered Flight From New Orleans To Shreveport And Baton Rouge On August 14, 2008, At A Cost Of $2365.69. NOTE: According To Google Maps, Plain Dealing Is Less Than A 45 Minute Drive From Shreveport.
RNC spokesman Michael Short told National Review this audit shows why Mary missed her self-imposed September 8 deadline…
“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.”
When the Air Mary mess first came to the public eye, we weren’t sure it was all that big a deal, with the caveat that the more revelations surfaced the more fatal it would be – but between Air Mary and her residency mess, it’s clear Landrieu’s baggage is weighing her down in polls of her race for re-election. And the more revelations come to the forefront about the issue the larger it will loom.
As George Will once said, what makes a good political scandal is that it reinforces an existing narrative surrounding its subject. The Air Mary revelations come amid a burgeoning narrative of Landrieu as a privileged and out-of-touch member of the political class, too good to follow established rules and far more concerned with the perquisites of her office than actual public service.
Air Mary is going to be fatal this fall, particularly as it serves as a cherry on top of a campaign which is already in mortal danger given the current political climate in Louisiana.