BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Republicans say U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu fell short of her pledge to review all her taxpayer-funded private charter flights to make sure they complied with the law, suggesting Monday that the Democratic senator was hiding important details.
Landrieu, seeking re-election on the November ballot, released a review of flights dating back to February 2002. She has acknowledged that she improperly billed her Senate office for nearly $43,000 in charter costs that should have been paid from her campaign account. Her campaign since has reimbursed the federal treasury.
Landrieu, targeted as vulnerable to defeat by the national Republican Party, ordered a review of her charter flight spending in August after media reports cited flights paid with taxpayer dollars that included campaign fundraising stops. Republicans questioned whether those examples were part of a larger pattern.
Republicans, including Landrieu opponent U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, say the three-term incumbent cherry-picked what she chose to release. They question why she didn't comb through flights from her first six years in Congress.
"Sen. Landrieu simply lied about releasing all of her travel records," Cassidy campaign spokesman John Cummins said in a statement.
Landrieu's campaign said the review only went back 12 years because that's when federal rules changed to allow flight costs to be split between Senate and campaign accounts if the trip had mixed purposes.
Before February 2002, "the rules did not permit allocation between campaign and official accounts; depending on the purpose of the trip, costs would be paid either with official funds or with campaign funds," Marc Elias, Landrieu's lawyer, said in a statement.
Cummins said since stricter rules were in place before 2002, that would mean if Landrieu did any campaign travel while on an official trip, that trip should have been billed to the campaign account. So, he and other Republicans said those flights need to be reviewed.
"Given her track record and the way she has had to be forced into coming clean, Senator Landrieu has not given anyone reason to trust she is being completely forthright with the public," state GOP executive director Jason Doré said.
Before the review, the senator had reimbursed nearly $9,000 in flight costs that violated federal rules for spending from her Senate office. The follow-up review found another $33,727 that should have been billed to the campaign account, Landrieu announced Friday.
Landrieu sent the findings to the Senate's ethics committee. She attributed the improper spending to "sloppy bookkeeping," apologized and said she put new safeguards in place to ensure charter flights were billed correctly.
But Republican candidate and tea party favorite Rob Maness is pressing for more details of each flight than what Landrieu's campaign provided. Meanwhile, Cassidy proposed that members of Congress disclose more information when they pay for private charter flights with tax dollars. He called it an unnecessary waste of money.
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