2020 Democrats jump to endorse Green New Deal despite spending hundreds of thousands on air travel – including private jets
But the elimination of air travel strikes particularly close to the homes of Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris – all of whom extensively used air travel, including private jets – throughout the years in office.
Harris, among the leading Democratic candidates in the 2020 race so far, has been an early backer of Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution to tackle climate change by radically transforming the country by rendering air travel obsolete, moving the U.S. to rely completely on renewable energy with net-zero emissions, and guaranteeing economic security even for people who are “unwilling” to work.
“I’m proud to co-sponsor @AOC and @EdMarkey’s Green New Deal. We must aggressively tackle climate change which poses an existential threat to our nation,” she tweeted, adding in that “The Green New Deal is a bold plan to shift our country to 100% clean and renewable energy.”
Yet Harris herself is far from following what she preaches. Since 2015, her campaign has spent around $300,000 on air travel.
Harris’ FEC records also show that she spent less than $7,000 on trains, even though the Green New Deal proposes making trains the main means of transport “at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.”
She is, however, an outlier compared to the three other Democrats when it comes to private jets, with no records or media reports indicating that she took a chartered flight.
Still, Harris’ lavish spending on airline tickets – with many of them first-class tickets – even became a campaign issue in 2015 during her Senate run, as the travel also included first-rate hotels around the country all while her staffers had to fly budget and stay in low-end rooms.
Booker is another 2020 candidate who immediately jumped on the Green New Deal without delving too much on the details, even though he also extensively relies on air travel.
His campaign records show that at least $300,000 were spent on air travel since 2013 by his campaign. He spent just about $11,000 on Amtrak – the Green New Deal’s preferred mode of transport.
While public records don’t clearly indicate whether Booker spent money on chartered flights, multiple media reports have indicated Booker occasionally travels using chartered flights.
The New Jersey Democrat defended his support for the proposal on Friday, comparing it to the government-led push to overhaul the nation’s economy and energy sector to landing on the moon and defeating the Nazis in World War II.
“There’s a lot of people now going back on the Green New Deal, they’re like ‘oh it’s impractical, oh it’s too expensive, oh it’s all of this,’” he said at a stop in Mason City, Iowa. “If we used to govern our dreams that way, we would have never gone to the Moon. ‘God, that’s impractical. See that ball in the sky? That’s impractical.’”
Gillibrand, a New York Democrat and a close friend of Booker, is also backing the Green New Deal, despite being one of the worst offenders when it comes to air travel.
“A #GreenNewDeal is ambitious. It’s bold. And I’m cosponsoring this resolution with @aoc and @senmarkey because it’s exactly the kind of action it will take to conquer the biggest threat of our lifetime,” she tweeted.
But Gillibrand has long been criticized for her extensive use of private jets. A Fox News review of public records reveal that Gillibrand’s campaign spent at least $439,000 on air charter company Zen Air between 2010 and 2017. In the last decade, her campaign also spent an additional $465,000 on non-charter flights.
The New York senator doesn’t always charge her campaign for the travel. She charged American taxpayers $93,098 in 2013 and $194,797 in 2012 for chartered flights, according to Senate financial documents, the USA Today reported. She ranked just below her fellow Democrat Chuck Schumer, who hasn’t endorsed the Green New Deal.
Lastly, Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who long fought for against climate change, is one of the original backers of Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal.
“I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal proposal. We must address the existential crisis of planetary climate change, while at the same time creating millions of good-paying jobs in our country,” he wrote.
While Sanders hasn’t yet declared his candidacy for president in 2020, he likely to face attacks even from other progressives for his excessive use air travel.
Just last October, Sanders reportedly spent $300,000 on private air travel just so he could speak to people in nine battleground states prior to November’s midterm elections.
Sanders’ 2018 campaign committee issued an Oct. 10 payment of $297,685 to New York-based Apollo Jets, a charter jet company used by retired sports stars Derek Jeter and Shaquille O’Neal, according to federal campaign reports obtained by VTDigger.org, a watchdog news site in Vermont.
Since 2015, his Senate campaign also spent an additional $100,000 on air travel. Sanders also ran for Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 2016, meaning some of the travel costs were made on behalf of the presidential campaign.
His presidential campaign spent over $10 million on air travel, compared to just around $75,000 on train travel.