2020 Democrats ramped up private flight spending in final months of 2019

2020 Democrats ramped up private flight spending in final months of 2019
© Getty Images

The Democratic presidential candidates spent more than $4.1 million on private flights in the final three months of 2019, Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show, a nearly 90 percent increase from the third-quarter total.

No candidate spent more on private flights last quarter than Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Inequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift In defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism MORE (I-Vt.), who paid roughly $1.2 million to Apollo Jets LLC, a luxury charter service based in New York. That’s more than three times what he spent on private flights in the second and third quarters of the year combined.

He paid $23,200 to the Vermont-based carbon offsets provider Native Energy, keeping in line with a pledge his campaign made last year to offset all travel-related carbon emissions.


A spokesperson for Sanders’s campaign did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

Not far behind him was former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE, who spent more than $1 million on private flights in the same period, up from $924,000 in the third quarter of the year, according to FEC filings. Biden has also purchased carbon offsets for his private flights.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (D-Mass.), meanwhile, dropped about $720,500 on charter flights — more than five times what she spent in the third quarter. A spokesperson for the Massachusetts senator pointed to a $16,758 donation her campaign also paid to Native Energy for carbon offsets.

Andrew YangAndrew YangGroups seek to get Black vote out for Democrats in Georgia runoffs Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Andrew Yang: Democrats need to adopt message that government is 'working for them' MORE, the former tech executive, spent nearly $117,000 on private air travel, up from about $26,000. A spokesperson for his campaign declined to comment on the spending.

Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's great challenge: Build an economy for long-term prosperity and security The secret weapon in Biden's fight against climate change Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE, who’s self-funding his presidential campaign, dropped about $646,000 on a private plane between late November, when he announced his candidacy, and the end of the year. 


And Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (D-Minn.) spent just under $85,000 on charter flights in the fourth quarter, a nearly 270 percent increase over the roughly $23,000 she spent in the third quarter, her latest federal filings show. Her campaign did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

Only one candidate, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' Biden's win is not a policy mandate — he should govern accordingly MORE, spent less on private flights in the last four months of 2019 than he did in the preceding quarter. He spent about $323,517 on charter aircraft in the fourth quarter, compared with nearly $479,000 in the third.

A spokesperson for Buttigieg said that the former mayor flies commercial “as often as possible” and charters flights only “when the schedule dictates.” The spokesperson also noted that Buttigieg was still serving as mayor of South Bend during the fourth quarter and occasionally had to fly noncommercial to uphold his official duties while on the campaign trail. 

Like his top rivals, Buttigieg has purchased carbon offsets for his private plane travel.

Four other candidates — Tom SteyerTom SteyerBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Late donor surges push election spending projections to new heights New voters surge to the polls MORE, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Hickenlooper ousts Gardner in Colorado, handing Democrats vital pickup Lobbying world MORE (D-Colo.), Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardSix people whose election wins made history Next Congress expected to have record diversity Native Americans elected to Congress in record numbers this year MORE (D-Hawaii) and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Merrick Garland on list to be Biden's attorney general: report Ralph Gants, chief justice of Massachusetts supreme court, dies at 65 MORE — did not report any campaign spending on private flights in the last three months of last year.

It’s not unusual for presidential candidates to charter flights, especially in the final months before primary voting begins. But the flights also come at a hefty price. In Biden’s case, more than $1 out of every $25 he spent went to charter air travel, while $1 in every $40 was spent on air travel for Sanders.

In the third quarter, the candidates spent a combined $2.2 million on private flights, according to FEC filings. And in the three-month period before that, the combined total was roughly $680,000.

The fourth-quarter FEC reports covered the period between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, but the candidates are still relying on private flights in the new year. Both Sanders and Warren have chartered planes in recent days to travel between Washington and early primary and caucus states.