Chuck Flies High

How much does it cost to take the sting out of commuting around New York? $144,014. That's how much Senator Chuck Schumer spent between October 2008 and March 2009 on travel, more than any Senator but one. (Republican John Cornyn of Texas spent more, after dragging 59 of his staffers to a retreat in St. Michaels, Maryland). According to Politico.com, Schumer took 25 chartered flights to various locations around New York State, most within 30 minutes of an international airport, at $1,000 to $7,000 a trip, running up a travel tab that's ten times more than some of his colleagues.

A taste for charter planes isn't a new one for Schumer. His Republican opponent tried to dub him "Charter Chuck" during his 2005 re-election campaign because Schumer spent $400,000 on 603 flights in his first term. Needless to say, this tactic had little effect on the election, or Schumer's choices in air travel.

Schumer's flack spins his boss's high flying as a sign of the Senator's conscientiousness, telling Politico that New York's senior Senator is just keeping his promise to visit all of New York's 62 counties every year. "Sen. Schumer takes outreach to his 19 million-plus constituents seriously, and his busy travel pace makes him one of the most accessible members of Congress," goes the party line. Of course, if we could fly on a charter plane instead of a commercial one and not have to worry about paying for it, we'd do it, too. But we can also say with complete confidence that Syracuse wouldn't be one of the stops on our itinerary.

Update: Schumer's press rep would like to point out that the plane is not a fancy jet. It's a three-seat propeller plane. And it doesn't even have a bathroom! So you're forced to fly to some tiny town in upstate and you have to worry about your bladder exploding? Washington politics isn't what it's cracked up to be, clearly.

Senators fly high on taxpayers' dime [Politico]