Skip to comments.Up in the air: Mike Huckabee’s private plane habit
Posted on 07/14/2014 6:52:08 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Huckabee is flying more comfortably than during the 2008 race.
As a presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee made a name for himself as the regular Joe on the debate stage, a threadbare underdog who couldnt afford his opponents Madison Avenue-style commercials, plush hotels and chartered planes. In his campaign memoir, Huckabee proclaimed that he kept in touch with ordinary people while eating food-court fare and waiting for long-delayed commercial flights as other candidates were stepping onto their Gulfstream jets.
These days, the former Arkansas governor is living and flying far more comfortably.
Now a Fox News commentator and highly paid public speaker, Huckabee has in just a few years racked up at least $253,000 in private air travel bills on the way to political events, according to a POLITICO review of federal and state campaign finance records.
As he continues to toy publicly with the possibility of a second presidential campaign in 2016, Huckabee has cut a costly path through the nations political battlegrounds, incurring significant costs to Republican candidates and groups in at least nine states, among them the Iowa Republican Party and Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akins infamous 2012 campaign. Its a penchant for aerial luxury that could present a jarring contrast to Huckabees homespun shtick should he decide to be a candidate in the future.
While wealthy and famous politicians often fly in style, Huckabees political travel is lavish by any standard. He appears to rely on private flights far more frequently than his potential rivals in the 2016 field. And if fans are often happy to cover the cost, Huckabees insistence on chartered planes tends to set him apart from a field of competitors scrambling to amass chits from early-state power brokers.
Former Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker, whose party spent $15,944 on a Huckabee flight in February 2013, said that may have been the only time the Iowa Republican Party chartered a plane to bring in a politician to the pivotal presidential state. It was for a Celebrate Life event at the Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Spiker recalled.
It was a private flight. He had a recording in New York, and I think [that was] the only way we could get him here, Spiker said.
North Carolina attorney Woody White, whose unsuccessful bid for a GOP congressional nomination Huckabee endorsed this year, described the former Arkansas governor as a gracious surrogate campaigner with a staff that is fiercely protective of the bosss time. White said Huckabee used a private flight for the campaign trip but traveled without an entourage and repeatedly expressed appreciation for the House candidates extensive preparation.
We had drivers and we had a convoy and we mapped it out days in advance at the time, because we were going through a couple of high-traffic areas, said White, a former Huckabee 2008 volunteer who sought out Huckabees support by calling the former presidential candidates cellphone. When we told them the preliminary schedule, we had two events and [Huckabees staff] said, We cant do that, we dont have time for that. But we ultimately did two events.
White said he asked Huckabee about 2016 during their drive together: I dont feel comfortable sharing all of that, but Ill say hes seriously considering it.
Huckabees aides describe his reliance on chartered air travel as a consequence of his intense personal schedule. He travels frequently between New York City, where he records his Fox News show, and the Florida Panhandle, where he has built a 10,900-square-foot beachfront home valued in county records at $3.2 million. According to spokesman Sylvester Smith, Huckabee saves money by purchasing hours on a plane each year at rates that are far less expensive than typical private air travel.
Huckabee declined to be interviewed for this story. In an email, his spokesman said Huckabee remains closely in touch with regular people despite his high-end flight habits.
If you knew how much time hes on a commercial flight, you would know hes flying far more now commercially than even in 2008, the Huck PAC official said. About 300,000 commercial miles last year; he does his own grocery shopping; works in the parking lot on Sundays at his church, parking cars and assisting people from the parking lot to the church; and spends a lot of time with people at the events he does.
Regarding Huckabees political travel, Smith emphasized: He wants to get out and help as many candidates as he can. Sometimes that means a travel schedule that requires he visit as many as four states in one day. There is simply no way you can travel via commercial airlines on a day like that.
Campaigns and political committees have paid the cost of Huckabees travel by cutting checks to one of two private companies linked to the politician-turned-TV-commentator: Blue Diamond Travel, a business registered at Huckabees Florida address, or the now-defunct MDH Group, an Arkansas entity named for the former governors initials.
On 14 occasions, Huckabees political action committee has also directly paid for private air travel expenses, reporting $30,000 in disbursements to MDH Group for charter travel to PAC events and a dozen additional outlays to chartered air travel companies.
The disclosed total, since the 2010 cycle, amounts to just over a quarter-million dollars. Additional trips, such as the North Carolina swing for White, have not yet been reported in campaign finance reports. (All campaigns are legally required to pay for the cost of their surrogates travel or report it as an in-kind donation.)
Its not unheard of for well-funded politicians to charter flights for campaign events. But several of the groups that brought in Huckabee to speak said a private plane is an exceedingly rare request for them, particularly for some of the decidedly small-scale campaigns that have cut big checks to Blue Diamond Travel and MDH Group.
Long-shot North Carolina Senate candidate Mark Harris, a pastor whose campaign paid $14,611 to Blue Diamond travel on March 18, reported having just $72,000 in the bank a month later in the last weeks of his unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination. The single largest check to Blue Diamond Travel in 2012 was cut on Oct. 19 for $20,310 and came from the hapless Akin campaign, which just two days earlier reported having only $544,000 in the bank for the homestretch of a difficult race.
Other patrons of Blue Diamond Travel and MDH Group have included 2012 South Carolina congressional candidate Andre Bauer ($14,560), 2014 Texas lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick ($12,807), North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest ($12,807), former Wisconsin governor and 2012 Senate candidate Tommy Thompson ($7,402) and state parties in West Virginia ($11,353) and Arkansas ($11,909).
The upgrade in Huckabees travel arrangements mirrors a broader trend in his lifestyle, as the man who once derided his posh rival Mitt Romney as reminding voters of the guy who laid you off has cashed in as a TV and radio host, a paid speaker and the author of several books including A Simple Government, Dear Chandler, Dear Scarlett: A Grandfathers Thoughts on Faith, Family, and the Things that Matter Most, and the forthcoming God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.
It was in the first book he authored after running for president, Do the Right Thing, that Huckabee griped in several extended passages about his rivals superior travel experiences. The well-funded candidates didnt just take in money; they burned right through it with their private jets, five-star hotels, and lavish meals, he wrote. We ate a lot of burritos and cheap burgers on the bus.
Now, as a noncandidate, Huckabees spending on air travel appears to far outstrip that of his potential 2016 competitors: A review of FEC records found that Kentucky Sen. Rand Pauls PAC has spent about $68,000 on chartered flights over the same time period, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubios PAC has shelled out just under $15,000.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorums PAC, Patriot Voices, has reported just $321 in travel expenses since its creation, evidently not for a private jet.
And in the run-up to his 2012 presidential campaign, even the well-funded and wealthy Romney reported under $77,000 in payments from his Free and Strong America PAC to chartered flight companies or private companies reimbursed for high-dollar travel. That may not cover every private jet expense for those candidates, since campaigns can also pay directly for surrogate speakers plane tickets or chartered flights.
Some of Huckabees hosts call the travel expense a cost well worth incurring. In February 2012, the Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee paid $5,036 to fly in Huckabee for a fundraising event. Scott Dieckhaus, the groups executive director, said the event brought in upward of $100,000. The private air travel was an unusual expense, he said.
Its not something we do often. Its something we do once every three or four years, Id say, he explained. That was just one of the requirements, when we said: How much is this going to run?
Huckabee advisers emphasize that he does not charge candidates he endorses just for the privilege of appearing with him, only for the travel involved. (An exception, in the 2010 election, came when Alabama congressional candidate Les Phillip paid $33,990 to Huckabees speaking agency for an appearance; a Huck PAC spokesman said that was because Phillip contacted the agency, rather than Huckabees PAC, which would not have charged a fee.) For campaigns relying on Huckabee to travel on their behalf, private air travel has the benefit of eliminating flight delays and enabling the former governor to pack more events into his schedule.
And Huckabees spokesman said the material comforts of the Republicans post-2008 lifestyle would not weigh on his decision about the 2016 presidential race. He will consider the impact on his family and he will ask himself if running for president is the best way he can serve his country, Smith said.
As to why Huckabee flies more frequently via private plane than his peers in the Republican presidential field, Smith suggested others may not have as many things going on as Gov. Huckabee does.
We fly commercial air when we can, because its less expensive. When we must use private air, we use private air, Smith said. In the months between May 1 and June 27, he spent all of five nights at home. Thats it. I dont think anyone has suggested he is lazy or needs a place to go.
250,000 in a FEW YEARS.
Sheeeeyit. How much TAXPAYER money does Soetoro spend in one day flying from fundraiser to fundraiser. Millions no doubt.
Go away, Huck. You will not be president. And please, take that dopey Akin with you.
I’m no Huckabee fan but if I was him I’d fart in the general direction of politico.com.
...and so it starts going after posible Republican candidates. I think this is the 2nd hit piece on a posible Republican candidate I have seen lately.
He said it brings him closer to G-d.
whose business is it? Certainly not Politico’s.
And he pays for it, too. I know that’s extreme, radical, a threat to the Republic, or what’s left of it.
I cannot imagine Huckabee as our President following this act of the radical Leftist Democrats. Not at all.
We need to elect a leader who not only tells it like it is, but backs up what they say with action no matter how severe the action necessary for whatever be the circumstance.
The aisle has to be widened so much there isn’t any possibility of anyone reaching across it.
Left is Left, and Right is Right, and NEVER the twains shall meet. (Yeah, yeah I know East, West, but doesn’t fit what I’m saying here.) No good comes of it.
Wealthy Media type spends lots of money flying in private jets.
And in other news Zero spends millions campaigning around the country while ignoring every crisis he manufactured.
My thought exactly. If he’s paying with his money who cares? Certainly not me!
I don’t care if he hitchhikes, I’ll never vote for him.
If I could afford or have regular access to a private plane, I’d have a habit, too. I love flying.
Talk about "brand" problems.
Are they complaining about someone paying for Huckster to be flown privately?
Who cares? It saves a ton of time....
I’ve flown on Air Force and Army small jets which were probably very similar and I agree.
Yep. Flying in private jets does not make Huckabee a twit. He’s already demonstrated that fact in several dozen different ways.
Go away, Huck. You will not be president. And please, take that dopey Akin with you.
Big whoop. Must be a slow news day.
That really is peanuts for private air travel...
Attacking anyone for flying a plane is a tactic of the Democrats who believe in the environmentalist religion and hate that wealthy people get to enjoy activities people on welfare checks can’t afford. It figures that Mike Huckabee would take the Al Gore approach to plane travel.
I wonder why politico has never reported on how much flat broke Bill & Hillary Clinton have spent on their air travel?
I don’t like Huck but as Speaker Pelosi repeatedly diverted her enormous commercial-sized jet thousands of miles, just to go but chocolate-dipped strawberries.
The bill for the booze for her jet in ONE YEAR? Over $100,000.
I don’t blame any of these guys for flying private. The last thing I want is a herd of TSA agents fondling my luggage and my privates. I wonder how many times Hillary flies private?
I used to work for a private jet charter company in Charlevoix,Mich. We charged $5,500 an hour for our Cessna CJ-2 airplane. I frequently was able to travel in it to places like Chicago, and Florida. I loved every minute of it. I had the life of a rock star. Huckabee had to be flying in some pretty nice planes to rack up those charges for those years.
Politico wouldn't care either. They'd still find a reason to attack him.
That is a really nice aircraft. Worth the cost.
OMG, you mean Obama takes Air Force 1 one multiple vacays with the uber 1%ers costing the taxpayers multi-million dollars...yeah Politico that is awfullllllll!!!!!!!!
He’s just a good old southern boy from Arkansas who now LIVES IN FLORIDA IN A 10,000 SQUARE FOOT MANSION ON THE BEACH!
Lots of people run for president just so they can make money by making speeches. Sharpton and Jackson come to mind.
He also believes the word “rino” should be banned.
I think the point of the article is he’s a hypocrite claiming to be something he’s not. He lambasted his opponents for doing what he’s now doing. I guess “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
I flew on an Air Force T-39 and a C-140. The USAF only had 3 C-140s in the inventory, one of which was flown by a USAF Academy graduate, who worked for me when he was an enlisted man. Both comfortable aircraft. I would much prefer that, to flying commercial.
Bo, the dog, had a private flight that cost just as much. Moochelle’s single trip to Spain cost millions. Al Gore burns 5-6 thousand per hour.
Personally I have flown on private aircraft all around the country. It’s one of the perks I have being a vendor for certain aircraft companies (manufacture parts).
If Huck can afford it then more power to him. I love private planes.
His money...his choice...politico NOYB.
Oh wow!!! What a great job that must have been! And good insight as to Huckabee’s real spending habits! Thumbs down on Huckabee.
Amen. He can fly however he wants, more power to him. Huck, just don't be claiming to be "Regular Joe," and if you're going to support crap like Federal smoking bans ("health-nut" Huck was all for that kind of government tyranny nanny-state "caring"), then you're going to forfeit any chance of getting my vote.
Huckabee has some BAD character flaws. Loving to fly in airplanes ain't one of them, but fleecing his supporters in order to indulge in this kind of luxury rather than making that $$ produce a little more bang for buck, IS. As so many here have pointed out, these aren't ordinary charter planes, they're REALLY NICE ONES. Splurging, it seems.
Sure, it's the business of the saps who give him money .. but it speaks ill of Huckabee's character and priorities. But we already knew that just by looking at him, and I am with those who think "fat chance!" that he lost weight by self discipline, diet, and exercise alone -- because frankly, he doesn't exhibit the STRENGTH OF CHARACTER I see in friends who have lost 100-plus pounds the HARD way, through smartly reformed eating habits and exercise.
If Romeny had gotten elected, then would the dog be tied to the aircraft wing?