Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s use of the state’s pricey jet plan has mixed state business with pleasure and national politics, according to a Politico review of the jet’s flight log.
The poorest state in the nation has spent over $500,000 on the governor’s air travel since 2007.
Barbour has used the state’s 12-seat Cessna Citation jet plane to travel to fundraisers for himself and other Republican candidates, as well as football games and at least one boxing match, according to the flight logs obtained by Politico.
“What Barbour is doing is that he’s playing the system,” Lynn Evans, president of the watchdog group Common Cause Mississippi, told Politico. “He’s raising as much money as he can, whenever he can and using the state plane to do it.”
The use of jet planes may not be new to Barbour. Before being elected governor in 2003, Barbour helped found the Barbour Griffith & Rogers lobbying group, which advocated on behalf of the tobacco industry. The BGR Group is considered one of the top 25 lobbying firms in the nation.
Dan Turner, a spokesman for Barbour, defended the governor’s travels, telling Politico that, “Gov. Barbour is an effective marketing tool in a state that really needs it.”
“In other states, people don’t necessarily appreciate the idea of a governor being so outgoing about promoting the state, whether it’s in Congress or in boardrooms,” he said.
Critics accuse Gov. Barbour, who has slashed the state’s budget, of continuing to live the life of a wealthy lobbyist using taxpayer’s dollars.
“All he has to do is meet with one congressman or senator for five minutes, and he can say that he’s on official business,” Mississippi Democratic state Rep. Johnny Stringer told Politico.
The review of Gov. Barbour’s use of Mississippi’s pricey jet comes days after the governor found himself in hot water for appearing to praise a pro-segregationist group.
Gov. Barbour, who is also the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is expected by some to run for president in 2012.