Report Says Kennedy Took Cut-Rate Campaign Trips Aboard Private Jets

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - A published report Tuesday said Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) accepted nearly a dozen cut-rate campaign trips aboard special interest owned private jets over the past two years. But a spokesman for the Massachusetts Democrat said those trips have not affected the Senator's voting record.

The Boston Herald reported Kennedy's trips are legal because of a campaign law loophole. That loophole allowed Kennedy to hitch rides aboard the corporate jets at a cost far below what those flights are actually worth.

The loophole allows politicians to accept flights aboard private and corporate jets, which could run upward of $3,000 per hour, as long as they pay what a first class commercial fare would cost.

The Center for Responsive Politics told the Herald that many other lawmakers also make use of what the group calls "one of the biggest scams in Washington," because the group believes such practices allows special interests to curry favor with politicians.

Stephen Weiss, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics told the Herald that wealthy donors and companies are making executive charters available to politicians such as Kennedy and that is "a huge help to the candidate, a favor that these companies hope the candidate will remember."

The Herald also said such providers typically have key issues before the Senate.

Among those providing Kennedy with the flights were defense giant Raytheon, major health insurer American Family Life Assistance Company, the International Union of Bricklayers, a Texas trial lawyer, and a prominent Boston businessmen, according to the Herald.

Meanwhile, Kennedy's office defended his use of the private jets only as a last resort to meet the demands of his busy schedule when commercial flights are not available.

"In certain situations, Senator Kennedy's participation in events would not be possible without the use of private planes," Kennedy's spokesman Will Keyser told the Herald.

Keyser also said Kennedy's record "is unaffected by these trips" and his agenda "has been clear and consistent for decades. Nothing changes that."

Efforts to obtain reaction from the political watchdog group, Common Cause and officials of the Massachusetts Republican Party were unsuccessful.

Kennedy is a member of the Senate Judiciary, Armed Services and Health and Education Committees. He is also a member of the Joint Economic Committee. He has been in the Senate for 38 years and was re-elected just last month.