Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is coming under fire for hypocrisy today after it was revealed that she took at least one reimbursed trip on a corporate charter jet owned by a hedge fund, a practice which she had condemned before her election during her time as the head of the liberal group Common Cause.
Pingree, who had decried “members of Congress [who] constantly fly around on corporate jets” in 2006 but was videotaped by the conservative website Maine Watchdog leaving an airplane owned by her boyfriend, Donald Sussman, president of a large hedge fund called Paloma Partners.
In the video (embedded below), Pingree disembarks from the airplane onto a red carpet set down after the craft landed at the airport of Portland, Maine.
Pingree’s recorded charter flight may not be the only one for which she was reimbursed, according to Maine Watchdog. The site has researched the congresswoman’s schedule and cross-referenced it with publicly available information on the Paloma Partners jet’s itinerary and revealed that Pingree may have used the corporate aircraft on at least 12 other flights.
I’ve asked Pingree’s office for a statement and will post that if/when I receive it.
She is being opposed by Republican Dean Scontras for reelection. He trails her by 9 points but will probably be helped by this disclosure one has to assume.
Update 18:37. Pingree spokesman Willy Ritch tells Examiner Opinion Zone blogger Rob Bluey that the airplane is not owned by Sussman’s hedge fund but is his own personal property:
“Most of the time Chellie travels home to Maine on a commercial flight but sometimes travels with her partner of three years Donald Sussman,” Ritch wrote in a statement. “Donald and Chellie live together in Maine and Washington and when they travel together, they fly on a plane personally owned by Donald — it is not ‘corporate owned’ — and no taxpayer resources are used for those trips.” […]
“When Chellie was elected to Congress, she checked with the House Ethics Committee and they assured her that, because Donald is her partner, the travel is allowable under House Rules and does not need to be reported,” Ritch said.
An interesting addition. Pingree’s situation illustrates yet again how the stringent campaign regulations groups like Common Cause love to foist on elections actually create a politics where wealthy individuals dominate because the non-wealthy are continually restricted in their ability to finance their campaigns. I’m sure that any of the congressmen and senators in the past who’ve flown via corporate jets owned by companies of supporters would have loved to have instead flown on airplanes owned by their significant others.
[Editorial note: I've changed the headline of this piece to read “charter jet” instead of “corporate jet” to reflect the ownership of the aircraft.]