Sanders campaign drops $300k on private jet travel

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the BookExpo trade show in New York City in June. BookExpo photo

[S]en. Bernie Sanders 2018 re-election campaign spent almost $300,000 on private jet service for a recent cross country tour to stump for Democrats and test the presidential waters.

According to federal campaign finance reports, Friends of Bernie Sanders, the senator’s official 2018 Senate campaign committee, spent $297,685.50 with Apollo Jets, a private charter jet service headquartered in New York. The report does not break down the number of trips or where they were taken. The check was issued on Oct. 10, according to the report.

Sanders — who appears likely to run for president again in 2020 — went to nine battleground states to stump for Democratic Party candidates prior to the November mid-term elections. The tour was also considered a way to test support for another presidential run. Sanders ran for president in 2016, finishing behind Hilary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

Sanders’ cross country tour included stops in Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina, early caucus and primary states in 2020. He also went as far as California to help other candidates.

According to the Federal Election Commission report, the Sanders campaign also gave the New Hampshire Democratic Party $15,000 in October. New Hampshire historically has the first primary after the Iowa caucuses.

Sanders faced nominal opposition in Vermont in his run for a third Senate term. He won in November with 66 percent of the vote. Sanders, 77, runs as an independent in Vermont but as a Democrat when he ran for president.

“He wanted to go where he thinks he can be helpful in energizing the base and bringing in young people and independent voters and working-class voters who supported him,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager and longtime political adviser, told the Associated Press about the nine-state tour.

Arianna Jones, senior communications adviser for Friends of Bernie Sanders, said Tuesday: “This expense was for transportation for the senator’s 9-day, 9-state tour to support Democratic candidates up and down the ballot ahead of Election Day.”

“This cost covered the entirety of the tour from Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, California, and back to Vermont,” Jones said. The senator participated in 25 events, Jones said.

Jones said it was necessary to use a private jet service “to allow the senator to campaign in all of the states where candidates wanted his help and get back to Vermont in order to join the Vermont Democratic Party coordinated campaign’s final GOTV efforts. As Bernie often said while encouraging voters to get involved leading up to Election Day, this was the most important midterm election in our lifetimes and he wanted to have maximum impact.”

Jones said the campaign purchased carbon offsets to support renewable energy projects and invest in carbon reduction projects to balance out emissions produced from travel. She said the campaign paid $4,980.00 to NativeEnergy for carbon offsets.

Sanders has reportedly traveled to 17 states this year and 30 since the 2016 election in support of Democratic candidates and several policy issues.

Sanders came under criticism in 2017 after his senate campaign spent a smaller amount with Apollo Jets — $37,568. He was ridiculed for using a luxury service while criticizing the wealthy.

Apollo promises to provide “the luxury, convenience, safety and security that only a private jet flight can offer,” according to its website.

The campaign also reported paying Metropolitan Travel, a Virginia travel agency, $13,500 for transportation at the end of September.

Friends of Bernie reported raising a total of $11.6 million and and total expenses of $7.2 million, according to FEC reports.

During the 2016 presidential election, Sanders spent $5.2 million in private jet services during a six-month period at the end of 2015 to the middle of 2016.

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is a senior editor and reporter for VTDigger. He covered crime and politics for the Burlington Free Press before a 25-year run as the host of the Mark Johnson Show radio program on WKDR and WDEV.

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