Politics

Democratic Candidates Spent At Least $700K To Fly In Clintons

The first estimate of the costs of bringing in the Clintons to campaign. The final total will likely top $1 million by the time more filings become available.

Hillary Clinton boards a plane on a trip as secretary of state in 2012. Jacquelyn Martin / Reuters

Bill and Hillary Clinton were the most sought after surrogates in the Democratic Party this year. He campaigned for more than 47 candidates. She for more than 26. Supporters estimate that, together, the Clintons headlined 75 rallies and fundraisers — and logged roughly 50,000 miles jetting from state to state.

When the Clintons travel, they fly private. This year, their airfare cost candidates at least $699,000, available state and federal campaign finance reports show.

Payments from campaigns and party committees to Executive Fliteways, the independent charter company the Clintons use, could be found for just under half of the trips the former first family took on behalf of Democrats this year.

The costs of two Clintons trips — one to Iowa, the other to Kentucky — were reported earlier this fall by Bloomberg and Politico, respectively.

But the $699,000 figure is the first comprehensive estimate that establishes the scope of the costs associated with using the Clintons as surrogates. By the time the rest of the filings come in, the number will likely exceed $1 million.

The Clintons couldn’t have paid for their own flights. Legally, candidates are required to pay for surrogate travel or report the costs as an in-kind contribution.

But not every campaigner flies on private charter planes. Sen. Rand Paul, who was on the road nearly every week this fall on behalf of Republicans, often flies commercial — and in coach. He travels alone or with one aide. In contrast, Mike Huckabee, the former governor who sold himself as an American everyman, racked up thousands in private air travel bills, as Politico reported this year.

For the Clintons, flying commercial isn’t as viable an option.

Both fly with multiple members of their Secret Service security detail. (One person familiar with the former secretary of state’s travel arrangements said she is usually accompanied by about four people from the detail.) Staffers also typically accompany the Clintons on their trips. At rallies on the road this year, Hillary Clinton often appeared with at least three aides from her personal staff.

As of this week, filings showed there were 32 total expenditures, some made in installments of two, made this year by campaigns to Executive Fliteways. Most of the finance reports that show expenditures made after Oct. 15 — when the Clintons did a large share of campaigning — are not yet available to the public.

Only candidates and committees that the Clintons supported showed disbursements this year to Executive Fliteways, which is based in Ronkonkoma, New York, on Long Island. No other candidate or surrogate appeared to make use of the charter company. The 32 payments were each recorded in filings for a campaign or party just before, or soon after, a Clinton event for that entity.

The costs — which total $699,172.82 between both Clintons — are based on a review of 2014 filings to the Federal Election Commission and to secretaries of state, with use of the Congressional Quarterly Political MoneyLine database.

The millions the pair raised at fundraisers far surpassed any travel expenses candidates had to cover. Every rally with a Clinton also garnered attention from the national press — valuable earned media for campaigns.

But the Clintons benefited from the trips too. The former secretary of state, who is considering another run for president, reintroduced herself to voters this fall on the campaign trail and honed a new stump speech.

The average cost for each Clinton trip was roughly $21,000.

Most of the listings for the flights are recorded in finance reports under a memo like “travel expense” or “airfare.” A handful of the expenditures listed by the campaigns with more specific notes — like “Charter Flight - WJC” or “Flight - HC 10/16/2014.”

Bill Clinton, who campaigned aggressively for Democrats from the spring to Election Day, racked up the majority of the costs that are so far public. Filings for 25 of his events show he billed campaigns at least $610,370.30 for his air travel.

Because Hillary Clinton held most of her rallies and fundraisers in late October, only a fraction of the expenses associated with her travel are currently public.

Payments for the seven trips for which filings are available show her travel cost campaigns at least $88,802.52.

One joint event with her husband at the Iowa Steak Fry, an annual fundraiser hosted by Sen. Tom Harkin, cost $50,099.82 in airfare.

That bill was first reported by Bloomberg last month. The tab for another Clinton trip, an Oct. 15 visit to Kentucky on behalf of Alison Lundergan Grimes, who lost her race for Senate, was first reported earlier this month by Politico.

Executive Fliteways owns a fleet of private jets and has three bases across New York, including one at the Westchester County Airport in White Plains — a 15-minute drive from the Clintons’ home of 15 years in the hamlet of Chappaqua.

Public flight records show a Falcon 900 jet housed at Executive Fliteways charted the same course as at least two Clinton trips this fall. The company’s website features a picture and description of the plane, which seats 12 passengers.

Clinton has considered basing her possible presidential campaign out of White Plains, Politico reported this month. If she does put her headquarters there, the Westchester Airport could serve as a convenient travel hub for the campaign.

A list of the costs associated with the 32 campaign trips is included below:

Feb. 25, WJC: Alison Lundergan Grimes fundraiser in Louisville, Kentucky
Alison Lundergan Grimes’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $28,670.00 (made in two payments: $25,000.00 and $3,670.00) on Feb. 20 and Feb. 21, respectively, for “Transportation”

April 5, WJC: James Lee Witt rally in Hot Springs, Arkansas
James Lee Witt’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $21,831.66 on April 3 for “Flight for President Clinton”

April 6, WJC: Pat Hays fundraiser in Little Rock, Arkansas
Pat Hays’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $10,726.33 for “Airfare”

April 10, WJC: Marjorie Margolies fundraiser in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Marjorie Margolies’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $6,610.50 on Apr. 10 for “Travel”

April 26, WJC: Michigan Democratic Party fundraiser in Detroit, Michigan
The Michigan Democratic State Central Committee paid Executive Fliteways $37,919.61 on April 28 for “Travel expense”

May 3, WJC: Mike Ross fundraiser in Little Rock, Arkansas
Mike Ross’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $7,119.80 on May 4 for “Travel Expenses”

May 13, WJC: Anthony Brown fundraiser in Potomac, Maryland
Anthony Brown’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $10,581.00 on May 21 for “Charter Flight - WJC”

June 13, WJC: Ohio Democratic Party fundraiser in Columbus, Ohio
The Ohio Democratic Party paid Executive Fliteways $28,414.00 on June 22

June 20, WJC: Rahm Emanuel fundraiser in Chicago, Illinois
Rahm Emanuel’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $25,635.00 on July 1 for “Event Costs - Travel Chicago for Rahm Emanuel”

June 28, WJC: Florida Leadership Blue Dinner fundraiser in Hollywood, Florida
The Democratic Executive Committee of Florida paid Executive Fliteways $47,088.77 on June 25 for “Air Travel”

Aug. 6, WJC: Alison Lundergan Grimes fundraiser and rally in Lexington, Kentucky
Alison Lundergan Grimes’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $23,265.00 on Aug. 11 for “Transportation”

Aug. 15, WJC: Arkansas Democratic Party fundraiser in Little Rock, Arkansas
The Democratic Party of Arkansas paid Executive Fliteways $20,366.89 on Sep. 2 for “Fundraising Event Speaker Travel”

Aug. 27, WJC: Seth Magaziner fundraiser in Providence, Rhode Island
Seth Magaziner’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $14,418.00 on Sept. 2 for “Travel & Lodging”

Sept. 2, WJC: Dan Malloy rally in New Haven, Connecticut
The Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee paid Executive Fliteways $14,901.59 on Sept. 5 for “Airfare”

Sept. 2, WJC: Mike Michaud-Maine Democratic Party rally in Portland, Maine
The Maine Democratic State Committee paid Executive Fliteways $14,901.59 on Sept. 4 for “Travel”

Sept. 5, WJC: Charlie Crist rally in Miami, Florida
Charlie Crist’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $41,072.52 on Sept. 5 for “Travel Expenses”

Sept. 6, WJC: Mary Landrieu fundraiser in New Orleans, Louisiana
The Big Easy Committee paid Executive Fliteways $41,072.52 on Sept. 8 for “Travel”

Sept. 13, WJC: Michelle Nunn fundraiser in Atlanta, Georgia
The Nunn Victory Fund paid Executive Fliteways $34,831.86 on Sept. 12 for “Fundraising Event Expense”

Sept. 14, WJC: Harkin Steak Fry fundraiser in Indianola, Iowa
The Harkin Steak Fry 2014 committee paid Executive Fliteways $50,099.82 on Sept. 10 for “travel expenses”

Sept. 16, WJC: Fred DuVal fundraiser in Scottsdale, Arizona
Fred DuVal’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $38,000.00 on Sept. 18 for “Event Expenses - Other”

Sept. 30, WJC: Anthony Brown fundraiser Potomac, Maryland
Anthony Brown’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $7,770.00 on Oct. 6 for “Event expense”

Sept. 30, WJC: Kay Hagan fundraiser in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The Hagan Forward NC committee paid Executive Fliteways $29,230.00 on Sept. 26 for “Travel”

Oct. 2, HRC: Charlie Crist fundraiser and retail stop in Miami, Florida
Charlie Crist’s campaign and the Charlie Crist for Florida committee paid Executive Fliteways $20,000.00 on Sept. 29 ($10,000 each) for “Travel/Airfare” and “Travel Expenses,” respectively

Oct. 6, WJC: Arkansas Democrats rallies in Arkansas
The Democratic Party of Arkansas paid Executive Fliteways $10,000.00 on Sept. 19 for “Event Speaker Airfare”

Oct. 8, WJC: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) fundraiser in California
The DSCC paid Executive Fliteways $23,372.50 on Oct. 9 for “Travel Expenses”

Oct. 13, HRC: Mark Udall fundraiser and retail stop in Denver, Colorado
Mark Udall’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $4,339.00 on Oct. 14 for “Airplane charter”

Oct. 15, HRC: Alison Lundergan Grimes rally and fundraiser in Louisville, Kentucky
The Kentucky State Democratic Central Executive Committee paid Executive Fliteways $17,192.50 on Oct. 14 for “Air Travel”

Oct. 16, HRC: Gary Peters-Mark Schauer rally/fundraiser in Rochester, Michigan
The Michigan Democratic State Central Committee paid Executive Fliteways $25,940.00 on Oct. 14 (Made in two payments: $20,233.20 & $5,706.80) for “Travel Expense” and “Flight - HC 10/16/2014,” respectively

Oct 21, HRC: Mark Udall-John Hickenlooper-Andrew Romanoff rally in Aurora, Colorado
Andrew Romanoff’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $542.38 on Oct. 14 for “Travel”

Oct. 24, HRC: Gina Raimondo rally/fundraiser in Providence, Rhode Island
The Rhode Island Democratic State Committee paid Executive Fliteways $10,394.32 on Oct. 23 for “Travel & Lodging”

Oct. 24, HRC: Mike Michaud rally/fundraiser in Scarborough, Maine
The Maine Democratic State Committee paid Executive Fliteways $10,394.32 on Oct. 24 for “Travel”

Oct. 26, WJC: Charlie Crist rally in Tampa, Florida
Charlie Crist’s campaign paid Executive Fliteways $22,471.34 on Oct. 27 for “Travel/Airfare”

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Ruby Cramer is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ruby Cramer at ruby.cramer@buzzfeed.com.
 
 

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