McCaskill to Repay Cost of Charter Flights

Senator Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) “office said Wednesday she plans to pay the U.S. Treasury $88,000 to cover the cost of charter flights she organized through a company in which she and her husband have an ownership stake,” the AP reports.

The Missouri Democrat’s husband, Joe Shepard, incorporated Sunset Cove Associates LLC in 2002. The company owns an eight-seat, twin-engine plane which, according to records, McCaskill’s Senate office has paid to use 89 times out of taxpayer funds.

News of McCaskill’s use of the plane was first reported by Politico.com on Wednesday. The announcement that she would reimburse taxpayers came after the story was published online, out of an “abundance of caution,” according to spokeswoman Maria Speiser.

Speiser said McCaskill and her husband did not make any money by using Sunset Cove Associates to charter her flights. The most recent financial disclosure report on record, from 2006, shows that McCaskill valued her family’s stake in Sunset Cove as between $50,000 and $100,000 but reported making less than $200 profit from it.

The use of chartered flights “by lawmakers is common and, given demands on their time, can sometimes be an occupational requirement.”

But McCaskill’s use of a plane that is owned by a company her family holds a stake in is unusual. Senate rules do not specify whether senators can be reimbursed for use of a personal aircraft for official use, although staffers and senators are reimbursed when they use their cars for personal business.

Update (3/11): According to Ben Smith, McCaskill’s spokeswoman has confirmed “that the Missouri Senator billed taxpayers for a purely political travel on a private plane co-owned by her family, a violation of Congressional ethics rules that deepens questions around her use of the plane.”

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