WASHINGTON — Sen. Claire McCaskill sold the private plane that caused her so much political heartburn last spring and could come back to haunt her re-election campaign.
Dubbed “Air Claire” by Republican critics, McCaskill had promised “to sell the damn plane” when the controversy involving public reimbursement for political travel and delinquent back taxes put the normally surefooted Missouri Democrat back on her heels.
“Claire said she would sell the plane and she was true to her word,” said her spokesman, Trevor Kincaid. He said the plane was sold to Northeast Montana Stat Air Ambulance Cooperative for $1.9 million. Kincaid said that McCaskill took a loss.
McCaskill and her husband, a wealthy St. Louis area developer, own the plane with other investors. She used it for official Senate travel and sought public reimbursement, which is permitted under Senate rules.
But she mistakenly included political travel in the request, which was sandwiched in among her official trips around the state.
She repaid the government $88,000, the costs of all the travel, official and otherwise. But then McCaskill discovered that she also owed $287,000 to St. Louis County, where the plane was housed, in unpaid property taxes, interest and penalties.
Republicans filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee, which was recently dismissed. But she faces re-election next year and is a top GOP target.
A former county prosecutor and Missouri state auditor, she has been an outspoken voice on Capitol Hill for integrity in government contracting and spending. Despite repaying the bills and selling the plane, the issue will likely take flight again during the 2012 campaign.