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Frequent Fliers on the Public Dime


Chris Christie joins Sarah Palin, Rod Blagojevich, and others on the list of governors who have overstepped their frequent-flier privileges

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hit a patch of turbulence earlier this month after using a $12.5 million police helicopter to ferry him to his son's high school baseball game and later to a meeting with Iowa fundraisers eyeing him for a Presidential bid. Critics immediately lit into the first-term Republican, who repeatedly has called for "shared sacrifice" as he struggles to close a yawning budget deficit. As the list below shows, Christie isn't the first governor to overstep his frequent-flier privileges.

Governor: Bob Riley (Ala.), former

Party: Republican

Modes of Transportation: State plane

Outings: Attempts by a junior legislator to launch an investigation into whether Riley improperly used state-owned aircraft to attend weddings of former staff members dead-ended in 2007.

Fallout: The ethics complaint didn't get traction because Riley's office had been posting flight logs online.

Governor: Sarah Palin (Alaska), former

Party: Republican

Modes of Transportation: Commercial jets

Outings: Palin sold the jet purchased by her predecessor but caught flak for billing the state for nine trips by her daughters, including one to attend a snowmobile race and a jaunt to New York.

Fallout: Palin reimbursed the state about $7,000 without admitting wrongdoing.

Governor: Rod Blagojevich (Ill.), former

Party: Democrat

Modes of Transportation: State-owned planes

Outings: Blagojevich, who refused to relocate from Chicago to the state capital of Springfield, logged nearly 1,000 flights on state-owned aircraft, often with family and friends in tow, according to one report.

Fallout: The flights amount to a peccadillo compared with other allegations of corruption he is fighting.

Governor: Steve Beshear (Ky.)

Party: Democrat

Modes of Transportation: State-owned planes

Outings: Beshear in 2008 barred the use of state funds for personal and political travel. Then the press uncovered his trips to some 40 campaign events and a family outing to an NCAA tournament.

Fallout: The Kentucky Democratic Party and Beshear's campaign reimbursed the state about $90,000.

Governor: Bobby Jindal (La.)

Party: Republican

Modes of Transportation: Leased helicopter

Outings: The Gulf Coast wasn't the only thing sullied by the BP spill: Jindal's reputation took a hit because he used Black Hawks from the Army, instead of a state chopper, to survey the damage.

Fallout: BP (BP) picked up the $3.9 million tab for the Black Hawks, according to state officials.

Governor: Jane Swift (Mass.), former Lt. Governor

Party: Republican

Modes of Transportation: State helicopter

Outings: Swift made headlines in 1999 when, while serving as lieutenant governor, she commandeered a state chopper so she could fly to her home in western Massachusetts to tend to her sick child.

Fallout: Swift issued a public apology.

Governor: Haley Barbour (Miss.)

Party: Republican

Modes of Transportation: State jet

Outings: Barbour, a frequent flier on the state-owned Cessna, billed taxpayers $7,020 earlier this year to fly to Washington, where he attended a conference on government overspending.

Fallout: The incident dented Barbour's reputation as a fiscal conservative.

Governor: Jim McGreevey (N.J.), former

Party: Democrat

Modes of Transportation: State helicopter

Outings: McGreevey admitted to 14 instances of traveling on state choppers for nongovernment business.

Fallout: The Democratic State Committee reimbursed New Jersey $18,200 in 2002.

Governor: Brad Henry (Okla.), former

Party: Democrat

Modes of Transportation: State plane

Outings: Henry boarded the Spirit of Oklahoma in 2009 to preside at the Florida wedding of two state employees. Cost to taxpayers: $5,700, not including pilot fees, according to official records.

Fallout: Bad press.

Governor: Mark Sanford (S.C.), former

Party: Republican

Modes of Transportation: State plane

Outings: Sanford used state aircraft to whisk him to hair and dental appointments.

Fallout: Paid $74,000 in civil fines in 2010 without admitting wrongdoing.

Governor: Mike Rounds (S.D.), former

Party: Republican

Modes of Transportation: State plane

Outings: Rounds, a licensed pilot, was at the controls of state aircraft once or twice a week. That cost taxpayers $723,000 over the past three budget years.

Fallout: Bad press.

Governor: Bob McDonnell (Va.)

Party: Republican

Modes of Transportation: State plane

Outings: Who would miss their daughter being crowned queen at an apple blossom festival? Not McDonnell, who used a state-owned plane to get to the ceremony and a Nascar race.

Fallout: Bad press.

Deprez is a reporter for Bloomberg News. Young is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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