BARBOUR’S LEAVING, ON A JET PLANE…. As if Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) didn’t have enough trouble explaining his affinity for white supremacists in the 1950s and 1960s, his national ambitions suffered another major setback this morning. When it comes to travel accommodations, it appears the right-wing lobbyist-turned-politician isn’t exactly a man of the people.
The Mississippi state plane, a zippy Cessna Citation with a capacity of 12, is a favorite of corporate executives and the wealthy, and its principal passenger, Gov. Haley Barbour, might easily be mistaken for one of them when he arrives with a small entourage at airports in Washington, Las Vegas or New York, a car and driver waiting there at their disposal.
Barbour has traveled extensively on the jet, brushing off suggestions from Mississippi Democrats that he give it up in favor of a more modest propeller plane for his travel. The trips, according to a POLITICO review of the Cessna’s flight manifest since 2007, have mixed state business with both pleasure and national politics.
Some of Barbour’s travel may well have been worth it to Mississippi, a state that is heavily dependent on federal funds. But much of the time, he has used the plane to go to fundraisers for himself and other Republican candidates and committees, to football games and to at least one boxing match — travel that has a less obvious connection to what Barbour, a former top lobbyist in Washington, has cast as his lobbying on behalf of his state.
In fairness to Barbour, it appears the governor has reimbursed state taxpayers for some of the flights, but only a handful. The result is a picture of a poor state’s chief executive, gallivanting around the country at his constituents’ expense, to the tune of over $500,000, living like the high-priced corporate lobbyist he was for many years — all while slashing funding for services low-income families in Mississippi rely on.
I suppose it’s one of those “austerity for thee, but not for me” kind of moments.
It especially won’t help if/when Barbour tries to seek national office.
Indeed, other governors eying a run for president have been careful to limit their use of state aircraft. As Alaska governor, Sarah Palin famously bragged about selling the Alaska state jet on eBay. Daniels himself has scaled back out-of-state travel for all Indiana state employees. And Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, active on the presidential circuit and vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, typically flies commercial, an aide said.
I’m fairly comfortable characterizing Boss Hogg’s presidential ambitions as being over before they start.