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

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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 Sanders (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 Biden, 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 Warren (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 Yang, 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 Bloomberg, 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 Klobuchar (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 Buttigieg, 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 Steyer, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — 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. 

Tags 2020 election Amy Klobuchar Andrew Yang Bernie Sanders Democratic primary Deval Patrick Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Michael Bennet Michael Bloomberg Pete Buttigieg Tom Steyer Tulsi Gabbard

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