By Andrew Miga / Boston Herald Thursday, February 10, 2005
W ASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy -- stirring memories of ex-acting Gov. Jane M. Swift's state police chopper boondoggle -- ordered up a taxpayer-funded $2,490 helicopter ride home to Hyannisport last May after attending events in New Bedford, records show.
The 48-mile flight to Cape Cod cost U.S. taxpayers $51.87 per mile.
The senator's chopper ride home on May 21 to his family's famed compound allowed him to avoid the late Friday afternoon traffic congestion that clogs roadways and bridges to Cape Cod during the spring and summer weekends.
"Driving -- or for that matter commercial air travel -- at that time of day would have taken several hours," said Stephanie Cutter, a senior Kennedy adviser.
The drive between New Bedford and Hyannisport is about 48 miles and takes 57 minutes without traffic, according to Mapquest, the travel Web site.
Kennedy's decision to tap his $2.4 million annual Senate office budget for nearly $2,500 for such a short flight home raised eyebrows among his colleagues.
"It's pretty much unheard of to do something like that," one Bay State congressman said. "Someone was asleep at the switch over there."
Former Lt. Gov. Swift caused a public uproar by using a state police helicopter to fly home to the Berkshires shortly before Thanksgiving 1999, avoiding holiday traffic. There were calls for her to reimburse the flight's estimated $1,000 cost.
Kennedy was in New Bedford and Fairhaven to tour pollution sites and announce new cleanup funding along with then-Environmental Protection Agency chief Michael Leavitt and U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-4th.
"The senator's travel complied with all applicable laws and Senate rules," said Cutter. The trip was for "official Senate business and did not involve any campaign events," Cutter said.
JBI Helicopter Services of Pembroke, N.H., provided the chopper.
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