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Pingree Flies On Corporate Jet

By   /   September 23, 2010  /   News  /   30 Comments

As the President of Common Cause, a non-profit citizens’ lobbying group, Representative Chellie Pingree criticized lawmakers who traveled on corporate jets.

But Rep. Pingree is engaging in the same activity she derided four years ago.

An investigation by MaineWatchdog found that Pingree has been traveling on a private plane owned by the corporation of her significant other, Donald Sussman, Founder and Chairman of Paloma Partners, a billion dollar hedge fund.

When AOL reported in late July that Pingree’s office was reimbursed for more travel expenses* than any other house member in 2009, MaineWatchdog asked whether any of those reimbursements were related to travel on private planes.  A spokesman for Pingree said: “To my knowledge, the Congresswoman does not fly on privately chartered jets.”

The investigation, however, produced a video of Representative Pingree and Sussman disembarking at Portland International Jetport after a flight from Bridgeport, Conn., on September 17, 2010.

Pingree and Sussman landed in Portland at 1:26 p.m., at which point a red carpet was rolled out for them on the non-commercial apron.


A snapshot of the couple driving off confirms that Pingree was on board.

Prior to her election in 2008, Pingree was an outspoken critic of congressional members who flew on corporate jets.

According to written remarks delivered before the Subcommittee on the Constitution in 2006, Pingree said: “Most Americans never have and never will fly on a chartered jet, much less a fancy corporate jet complete with wet bar and leather couches. So when members of Congress constantly fly around on corporate jets and pay only the cost of a commercial ticket, it contributes to the corrosive public perception that members of Congress are more like the fat cats of Wall Street than they are like the rest of us.”

In the aftermath of the Abramoff scandal, Pingree lobbied for a tough ethics-reform law that would have, among other things, completely banned privately funded travel.  When a weaker bill was introduced, Pingree called the drafted bill “window dressing.” 

It is not clear whether Pingree’s use of Sussman’s aircraft was limited to the incident on September 17.

Flight logs of Sussman’s plane obtained by MaineWatchdog indicate that Pingree may have used the aircraft on several other occasions.

In several instances, Pingree’s trips between Maine and Washington, D.C. closely track the movement of Sussman’s plane.

MaineWatchdog uncovered the following facts:

On the morning of September 13, Representative Pingree visited Presumpscot Elementary School in Portland.

According to flight logs, Sussman’s plane took off from Portland International Jetport at 12:31 in the afternoon. Forty-nine minutes later, at 1:20, it landed an hour’s drive north of New York City at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, NY. 

At 6:30 p.m., two prominent New York theater producers threw a house party to raise money for Pingree at their home in the Upper East End. The party was scheduled to end at 8:00 p.m.

At 9:22 p.m., Sussman’s plane lifted off again at Westchester County Airport in White Plains. It landed at Dulles International Airport an hour outside of Washington, D.C., at 10:17 p.m.

The next day, Sept. 14, Pingree cast two votes (HR 1571 and HR 1052) in the evening on the House floor in Washington.

There are other similar cases where Pingree’s movement parallels that of Sussman’s plane. MaineWatchdog compared Pingree’s voting record to the movement of Sussman’s plane.

On July 24, Pingree was in Brunswick with Gov. Baldacci to celebrate Kestrel Aviation’s move to Maine.

On July 26, Sussman’s plane left Knox County Regional Airport in Rockland, the closest airport to Pingree’s home in North Haven, at 12:51 pm. Pingree was on the House floor at around 6:30 to vote on HR 1320. She also appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews that afternoon.

She was in Washington for votes on July 27, 28, and 29.

On July 30, Pingree was on the House floor. The last vote of the day was at around 6:30 p.m. At 7:39, Sussman’s plane left Washington, D.C. for Rockland, Maine.

On August 6th, Pingree attended the Maine Lobster Fest Parade in Rockland.

On August 9, Sussman’s plane departed Rockland for D.C. at 2:33 pm. The next day, Pingree was present in the Oval Office when President Obama signed the $26 billion aid package for states. Sussman’s plane departed D.C. on August 10 at 7:16 pm and returned to Rockland.

At the time this article was released, MaineWatchdog was waiting for Pingree’s office to provide receipts for all commercial flights that the Congresswoman booked over the last several months.

*Editor’s Note (9/23/2010, 2:11 p.m.) The AOL story did not report that Rep. Pingree’s office was reimbursed for more travel expenses in strictly monetary terms.  Several other House members were reimbursed for higher total bills.  Rep. Pingree’s office was reimbursed for more individual travel expenditures than any other House member.


Stephan formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Pingree was NOT “reimbursed for more travel expenses than any other house member in 2009.” She filed the largest number of reimbursement requests, not for the most money.

    From the AOL story to which you do not provide a link:

    “The representative with the most individual travel expenses in the 9 months we looked at was Democrat Chellie Pingree of Maine with 197, nearly 50 of which were for under $100.

    “Indeed, Pingree’s travel bill was far less than other members’. For instance, Republican Jerry Moran of Kansas had a $82,000 travel bill despite submitting more than 50 fewer expenses than Pingree.”

    Here it is: http://bit.ly/ajxGGa

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  • James Day

    Chellie is just a dirty as the rest of them and needs to be thrown out of office.

  • Dan Leary

    This is an amazing story – just on the basis of the sheer hypocrisy. Also, I think she is violating House Ethics rules:


  • Frank

    Why is this a big deal? Doesn’t Olympia fly back and forth to DC on a private plane all the time?

    Isn’t it better than having taxpayers pick up the tab?

  • Martin McIntosh

    Typical elitist–do as I say, not as I do. Maine would do well to vote her out of office at the earliest possible opportunity.

  • Gerald: Good catch. That AOL article is frivolous and shouldn’t be used by opponents of Rep. Pingree- if anything, it proves that she travels to her district a lot, which is a good thing.

    However, Stephan’s article is an absolute slam dunk in its measured, documented exposure of hypocrisy on the part of Rep. Pingree (not to mention possible ethics violations).

    If you’re defending the AOL article, then I call on you to stand up and acknowledge that Stephan’s work here is damning to say the least.

    This is exactly the type of reporting that Maine’s “mainstream” journalists should be doing- thank you Stephan!

  • Dan Leary

    Frank- She does not fly on a private jet.. Or at least there are no specific allegations to the contrary. She gets on the US Airways flight, as does Mike Michaud and Susan Collins. Pingree is often on that flight as well. I have been on that flight – when all 4 were on it.

    This is about doing one thing and saying another – and of course, it may be a violation.

  • Thomas Sweeney

    Another phoney progressive. I’m disgusted with this Democratic Socialist who has access to all the trapping of the rich but feels it is best for the country to lower the standard of living for the “little” people she supposedly represents. Does anyone remember she has been for ObamaCare for day one, when the penalty for not buying government mandated healthcare was ….. a year in jail!! Keep voting for Progressives and your children’s penalties will be being sent to the Gulag, while the beauracrats spend the summers in their daschas. Except of course, for our Progressive/Socialist/Marxists goes to the Virgin Island with her personal “fat cat” Hedge Fund billionaire boyfriend.

  • Dan Leary:

    It would be hypocrisy if she made the statement yesterday, last year, even in 2008. But she made it in 2006, BEFORE she was running for Congress, BEFORE Sussman was her partner.

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere: does John McCain fly on a commercial carrier or on his wife’s jet? Ditto John Kerry.

    Stephan: Please correct the 4th paragraph of your piece reflecting the facts regarding Pingree’s travel expenses.

  • Dan Leary

    gerald – are you kidding me?

    First of all – I don’t even understand your point. I agreed 100% with her in 2006. I think that corporatism is evil. Period. The fact that she embraced what she so eloquently skewered in 2006 is breathtaking.

    as for Mcain and John Kerry – You understand that this in not mr. sussman’s personal plane. It is a corporate jet – owned by a corporation – there ain’t no way you talk yourself out of this one.

    I agree with the AOL reference–it needs to be fixed–but it is such a minor issue.

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  • Dan Leary:

    The corporation that owns the jet is called Magic Carpet Rides. One would be an idiot to not create a corporation to own it. Again, what Pingree was talking about in 2006 were junkets on board jets owned by the likes of Koch Industries, Monsanto, Exxon/Mobil, etc.

    Do you suppose that Cindy McCain has her plane in her name, or is it owned by a corporation? Theresa Heinz?

    Would I rather that all Members of Congress flew on commercial carriers? Sure. Are there ethics violations here? I don’t know.

  • Stephan:

    Again, please correct the 4th paragraph of this piece. Placing an asterisk there is not fixing it. How many readers are going to see it, or make it to the bottom? If need be, place a strike-through the original text is the HTML code.

    To leave it like it is will leave many readers reading your error, and not knowing that it is such.

  • Dan Leary

    Gerald – your tone with Stephan is amazing, you have a real chip on your shoulder.

    Secondly, so now it is a corporate owned jet – which is the opposite of what he Pingree campaign just released? And by the way, Ms. Pingree stated the following:
    “Most Americans never have and never will fly on a chartered jet, much less a fancy corporate jet complete with wet bar and leather couches. So when members of Congress constantly fly around on corporate jets and pay only the cost of a commercial ticket, it contributes to the corrosive public perception that members of Congress are more like the fat cats of Wall Street than they are like the rest of us”

    Frankly, I agrees with her 100% then, and I agree with her now.

  • For me the question is: what votes was she casting following these mysterious shuttles? Perhaps the reason she asked for lower reimbursements is because she was not paying for her own flights. Hmmm? But key is how she may have voted on issues dear to Sussman. It has become clear to me that the hedge fund racket is secretive for a very specific reason: to hide the fact that they are using insider trading, influence peddling and market manipulation to reap their billions while the rest of us get hung out to dry. If Pingree has anything to do with that she should hang.

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  • Stephan:

    It’s now more than 12 hours since I pointed to the mistake in paragraph four, and you still have not revised it. Is this journalism, or a smear campaign?

  • derekcrane

    Think of Pingree as practicing double hypocrisy. As a Democrat she surely supports “Cap and Trade” and is a believer in anthropogenic global warming. Her hypocrisy approaches Al Gore’s and Prince Cholly’s by flying private jets that spew all that poison in the atmosphere. Poison, she knows, that will soon kill us all. derekcrane

  • Sheila

    Is this being sent to the House Ethics Committee for a response/further investigation? ? ?

  • Cathy

    to solve all these problems, we need to vote out career politicians of BOTH parties and vote in fiscal conservative TEA (taxed enough already) candidates. Both the democrats and the republicans are part of the problem in Washington, not part of the solution.

  • Steven G Bruno

    Pingree is in office for her own wealth and not for the people she ..does not represent, she and Michaud voted themselves a nice raise recently.Time to make some changes in Liberal MAINE. Conservitive Libertarians ONLY Please.

  • Al Brockman

    I think you all are missing a significant point. The Ethics opinion she is waving about seems to say what she is doing is legal. However, according to the opinion, that was based on including “fiance” as a family member!
    I have negotiated labor contracts for over 30 years. Every single contract includes the definition of family. I have NEVER seen a definition the includes “fiance(e)”.
    The other point deals with Mr. Sussman’s tax breaks based upon his Virgn Islands residence. Where DOES he live

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  • More legwork than I can do, to track the who-shot-John of this against her contributions, but here are her earmarks:


    Earmarks are the gateway drug to political corruption, and it looks like she’s into the hard stuff. She’s a very prolific earmarker, almost made the top 10%, pretty impressive for a relative newbie from way out in Minnesota. Uh, Maine.

    And because they’re not married she doesn’t have to disclose where Sussman profits by it (but what are the odds he does? About unity, right?). If you were wondering why they weren’t married, that’s probably the answer — it lets him keep the millions she’s probably redirecting to him secret.

    The most basic rule to understand about Members of Congress is this: they’re all crooks. There is no rube like the rube who tells you his girlfriend is an “escort,” but “she’s not like all the others.”

  • Bill

    So let me see if I got this straight. You fly on your boyfriends Corporate Jet and you get caught. So the only way out is to say you are engaged to your boyfriend. Your spokesman said you got engaged May 2009 ,Then maybe you think about how long you have been riding on this nice jet and you say we got engaged in 2008 and the Maine People say OK. we are not to smart in Maine.We will not even get into the Common Cause stuff. That would be to much for us Maine People to understand

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  • aeverpean

    Flying on a prviate jet is the only way to travel! i always use http://www.jetsuite.com for all my travel needs! It is seriously the best!!