Oh, look, Mary Landrieu used a taxpayer-funded jet to attend a campaign fundraiser

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has been caught with her hand in the taxpayers’ cookie jar. CNN reports that Landrieu’s Senate office was billed $3,200 for a November charter flight from New Orleans to Lake Charles so she could attend a campaign fundraiser:

Landrieu spent more than $3,200 in taxpayer money to fly 400 miles round trip from New Orleans to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where she attended a $40-per person fundraising lunch with hundreds of women, according to Senate records and Landrieu campaign information. It is illegal to spend government money campaigning.

Landrieu’s campaign spokesman, Fabien Levy, said in a statement that the charter company mistakenly billed Landrieu’s Senate office instead of her re-election campaign. Levy said the campaign noticed the error a few weeks ago and asked the company to refund the Senate office and bill the campaign, which the company did. Levy said Landrieu’s re-election campaign paid for the flight August 4, almost nine months after the November 8 trip.

Using taxpayer funds for campaign purposes is, of course, illegal. Landrieu’s office says that they noticed the error — at the end of July, some nine months after the trip. Conveniently, her office caught the indiscretion just before USA Today published a story on the $1 million worth of charter flights senators took last year. Landrieu was one of the top abusers, taking $47,000 worth of taxpayer-funded charter flights.

Although Landrieu’s office has dealt with the problem, some believe that she should still be held accountable for the “oversight”:

Even though the mistake was corrected, the campaign still violated federal law and could face civil fines, said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog.

“It is the senator and the senator’s staff responsibility to comply with federal laws. It’s not the job of the vendor, per se,” Ryan said. “It sounds like their excuse is, ‘We didn’t do anything wrong; it’s the vendor.’ It’s the job of the senator and her staff not to pay bills out of a Senate office account if those bills were not for Senate business.”

Ryan argued that even though Landrieu fixed the error, the law should still be enforced.

“If senators were allowed to pay for their campaign expenses out of taxpayer dollars that challengers don’t have access to, that’s a major unfair advantage to incumbents,” he said.

The fact that Landrieu’s Senate office let this slide by for nine months makes it look like they were trying to skate by, only correcting the error when they realized they could get caught. So, yeah, Ryan is right. The law should be enforced, because laws either matter or they don’t.

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