Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will, in fact, charter a private plane this week to return to the campaign trail, jetting back and forth to Iowa from Washington, D.C., where he’s attending President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.
All Senators are required to be present for the trial, which may take weeks, pulling several of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders off the campaign trail, just as the primary race is heating up. The Iowa Caucuses, the first contest of the 2020 presidential campaign season, takes place on February 3rd. New Hampshire goes to the polls on February 11th.
Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) will have to do double time, sitting in session in the Senate from 1pm until midnight or 1am six days a week to hear arguments and discussion, and conducting a traditional presidential campaign in whatever spare time they have left.
Warren and Klobuchar will likely stay in D.C. and send surrogates out into the field, or try to attend events by video conference during breaks in the Senate trial. The pair don’t have enough cash on hand to travel back and forth from Washington, D.C., to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.
Sanders, however, does. According to a report from the Washington Examiner’s Joe Simonson, Sanders’ campaign will charter a private plane to whisk Bernie from Washington to Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Wednesday so that he can attend a campaign rally in person.
“The Sanders campaign is not comfortable with disclosing its candidate’s new form of transportation, worried about the optics of flying private as a left-wing populist, according to people close to the campaign,” Simonson says. “Instead, the campaign has taken an official ‘no comment’ position when receiving inquiries.”
Word of possible private jet plans bubbled to the surface earlier this month in a report from NBC News.
“Sanders’ war chest, including his field-leading $34.5 million haul in the last quarter of 2019, allows him flexibility that other contenders can’t match — including the use of private jets to ferry him back and forth for late rallies in early states,” the outlet reported back on January 8th.
At the time, Sanders staffers were fairly open about the candidate’s plan to keep up his breakneck pace of campaign events.
“They’re not going to be meeting at night [for the trial], so we can obviously fly from D.C. to states and hold events in the evening and fly back, you know, so he can be back in the morning to do his work in the Senate,” one source told the network. “He’s an energetic candidate. He has a very vigorous schedule, and, you know, he can do that.”
It turns out they will be meeting at night, per Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) strict new rules, but there will be breaks, nights off, and morning’s free while Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the Senate trial, does his regular job in the Supreme Court.
Despite being an ardent socialist, Sanders, who has a net worth of more than a million and owns three homes, is familiar with the concept of private air travel, even though the environmentally conscious Vermont Senator must recognize that private planes are a significant contributor to climate change. When the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign was courting Sanders’ support in 2016, Sanders, they said, demanded to be ferried to Clinton’s events aboard a private jet.
“I’m not shocked that while thousands of volunteers braved the heat and cold to knock on doors until their fingers bled in a desperate effort to stop Donald Trump, his Royal Majesty King Bernie Sanders would only deign to leave his plush D.C. office or his brand new second home on the lake if he was flown around on a cushy private jet like a billionaire master of the universe,” one particularly bitter Clinton aid said at the time.
Sanders’ Clinton-related travel cost the campaign an estimated $342,000, per the Examiner.
This also won’t be the first time Sanders has chartered a private plane to jet him around. His Senate campaign had an account with Apollo Jets — a high-end private jet charter service — and used it.
“According to federal campaign finance reports, Friends of Bernie Sanders, the senator’s official 2018 Senate campaign committee, spent $297,685.50 with Apollo Jets, a private charter jet service headquartered in New York,” The Daily Wire reported back in December of 2018, right before Sanders declared his intent to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. “The report does not break down the number of trips or where they were taken. The check was issued on Oct. 10, according to the report.”
They do, at least, try to be environmentally conscious. In the same report, aides indicated that “the campaign paid $4,980.00 to NativeEnergy for carbon offsets.”