Mississippi governor favors state jet as fundraising tool

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Former lobbyist and now-governor of Mississippi Halley Barbour is not shy about his frequent use of the state’s 12-passenger Cessna Citation, in sharp contrast to other governors who use it sparingly in deference to the current state of the economy. Sarah Palin even bragged about how she sold Alaska’s state jet on eBay.

Critics say that Gov. Barbour is scheduling minor official business trips to coincide with fundraising expeditions.

Online news source, Politico, obtained manifests of the plane’s trips since 2007, and found a mix of those that were clearly for state business, and trips that appeared to be more along the lines of fundraising efforts for himself, and other Republican candidates and committees. Records also show trips to football games and at least one boxing match, all at taxpayer’s expense.

The total cost to taxpayers of maintaining the jet over the last three years amounted to over $500,000. Barbour has reimbursed the state for personal use of the plane on a number of occasions, but the flight logs seem to suggest the regular practice of scheduling minor official business trips alongside political conventions and fundraisers.

Among the many examples cited by Politico include:

In March 2010 the plane picked up Barbour in Las Vegas after inviting donors to his PAC to drive stock cars around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and have drinks with casino exec Steve Wynn- for $5,000 a head. The official purpose listed on the flight log was a “project meeting.”

A month later, the plane picked up Barbour in New Orleans from the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, where he attended a $10,000-a-plate fundraiser at the popular Brennan’s restaurant. Then the plane travelled on to a Canadian trade summit on the Gulf Coast.

In June 2009, the plane flew Barbour to Washington D.C. for a meeting with General Dynamics and both Mississippi senators. After the meeting, he spent three days campaigning with Bob McDonnell, who was running for governor of Virginia. His staff originally said that Barbour would reimburse taxpayers, but subsequently changed positions, saying the trip was for official business.

In December 2010, Barbour flew home on the plane after meeting in D.C. with the Mississippi delegation and officials about the Gulf Oil spill. However, he also held two fundraisers in D.C. for his PAC, which raised over $75,000.

Records also show that Barbour frequently uses the plane for interviews and media appearances, while other politicians around the country rely on satellite uplinks. Barbour has used the plane to appear on Meet the Press, Face the Nation and Fox news, all in Washington, D.C.

While there is no shortage of critics, not everyone in Mississippi is concerned about the governor’s use of the plane.

His traveling doesn’t bother me,” said state Rep. George Flaggs, a Democrat who has been critical of the governor’s recent budget proposals. “I know that the governor may or may not use the plane for political purposes. That’s what politicians do.”

Politico

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