Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has been spending large amounts on airfare as a congressman, flying first class on dozens of taxpayer-funded flights to his home state. The practice conflicts with the image that Paul portrays as the only presidential candidate serious about cutting federal spending.
Paul flew first class on at least 31 round-trip flights and 12 one-way flights since May 2009 when he was traveling between Washington and his district in Texas, according to a review by The Associated Press of his congressional office expenses. Four other round-trip tickets and two other one-way tickets purchased during the period were eligible for upgrades to first-class after they were bought, but those upgrades would not be documented in the expense records.
Paul, whose distrust of big government is the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, trusts the more expensive government rate for Continental Airlines when buying his tickets. Paul chose not to buy the cheaper economy tickets at a fraction of the price because they aren't refundable or as flexible for scheduling, his congressional staff said.
"We always get him full refundable tickets since the congressional schedule sometimes changes quickly," said Jeff Deist, Paul's chief of staff. Paul might have to pay out of his own pocket for canceled flights in some cases if he didn't buy refundable tickets, Deist said.
But records show that most of the flights for Paul were purchased well in advance and few schedule changes were necessary. Nearly two-thirds of the 49 tickets were purchased at least two weeks in advance, and 42 percent were bought at least three weeks in advance, the AP's review found.