If there was ever a case for term limits, Mr. Rockefeller is it.
Is he serving the people or are we serving him?
The travel costs he billed to taxpayers over the past three years were greater than all but 11 senators, including those from Alaska, Washington state, Montana and other far-flung locales, a Washington Examiner analysis of Senate travel records reveals.
That means Rockefeller goes home less often than nearly every other member of Congress, yet his total travel costs are among the highest, all despite representing a state that on a clear day can almost be seen from the Capitol dome.
Rockefeller's 32 trips in the past three years cost taxpayers $141,408 for the chartered aircraft. Meanwhile, 40 members of his staff traveled back and forth regularly for less than half that price, combined. The records don't indicate whether the staffers drove or flew.
For one trip from Feb. 28 to March 1 of this year, for example, “airfare for Sen. Rockefeller Washington DC to Charleston and return” cost $9,657.
His economic development director, Brandy Lynn Messer, made the same trip one month earlier for $300 — and also managed to check in on two other West Virginia towns while she was there.
Rockefeller, whose full name is John Davison Rockefeller IV, is a member of the famously wealth clan descended from the oil baron. And it’s little wonder he prefers to make the home he owns in D.C. his full-time residence.
He owns a palatial mansion worth an estimated $18 million and built on one of the largest housing tracts in the District — 16 acres cordoned off by razor wire and nearly surrounded by parkland in one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods, Crestwood, near Rock Creek Park.
It has “11 bathrooms on one floor alone,” the Philadelphia Inquirer noted when Rockefeller bought the estate in 1986.
Meanwhile, the state he represents in the U.S. Senate is one of the poorest in the country, with per capita annual income of $22,000, census figures show.
He has an estimated net worth of more than $100 million, making him the nation's third-richest senator after Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut,according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Despite his wealth, Rockefeller not only bills taxpayers for the private plane, he charges them for expenses as small as $12.75 while he is “in and around Charleston.”
Rockefeller's Senate office charters his flights through Martinair Inc., a Virginia company that rents four-seat aircraft for $1,850 an hour, seven-seaters for $2,200 an hour, and 12-seaters for $4,000 an hour, plus fuel and other charges.
On April 21, 2012, for example, the senator billed taxpayers $5,980 for a same-day trip from Washington to Charleston and back, presumably paying for the plane to wait while he did business in the state rather than risk having to spend a night there.
He billed taxpayers $10,654 for a two-day trip on Sept. 5-6, 2013. For 12 of Rockefeller's 32 trips over the past three years, the charter flights alone cost taxpayers more than $7,000.