California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown travels occasionally in a turboprop airplane operated by the state attorney general's office, despite promoting his use of commercial flights and his criticism of Republican rival Meg Whitman for traveling in chartered jets.
Records reviewed Thursday by The Associated Press show the plane has been used in at least 20 flights in nine days over the last year. It's not clear how many of those flights Brown was on, but some of the Beechcraft Super King Air 200's flights coincide with the locations of official events Brown attended as attorney general.
Christine Gasparac, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said Brown mostly flies Southwest Airlines.
"He uses it very rarely and only for official business," she said of the taxpayer-funded airplane. The most recent flight listed was in June.
Gasparac could not immediately say how much the turboprop, which seats between eight to 12 people, costs the state to operate and maintain or whether other state agencies use it. The AP filed a request under the California Public Records Act seeking more information.
Brown's campaign spokesman, Sterling Clifford, said Brown has never used the plane to fly to campaign events. He travels on Southwest for campaign events, Clifford said.
He said it was not hypocritical of Brown to criticize Whitman's air travel and the spending for her gubernatorial campaign, which has cost nearly $100 million to date.
"I think it's an absolute fallacy that those things are equivalent at all," Clifford said. "It's certainly different than $800,000 in private jet travel or more than $1 million charged to shareholders when she was at eBay."
Brown's campaign has sought to portray this year's governor's race as a contest between a wealthy Wall Street tycoon and a frugal politician who flies Southwest and lived in a one-bedroom apartment across from the state Capitol when he was governor from 1975 to 1983. Advisers to Brown, who is 72, have said he takes advantage of three-for-one suit sales and senior citizens discounts.
Campaign finance reports filed this week show he also has run a lean campaign so far, relying on donated janitorial services and loaned apartments for official meetings. Brown, who faced no serious challenger in the Democratic primary, has spent just $450,000 on his race to date, although the number climbs to $774,000 once donated services are included.
Whitman, who made her fortune as chief executive of the online auction house eBay, has given her campaign more than $91 million to date, making the race the most expensive in California history. Her top political consultant makes $90,000 a month.
Whitman holds highly orchestrated campaign events staffed by a cadre of advisers, videographers and photographers while promoting an agenda of austerity for state government. Whitman lives in the wealthy San Francisco Bay area suburb of Atherton and owns several properties, including a ranch in Colorado.
Brown and his wife, a former executive at the Gap Inc., also own a luxury home in the Oakland Hills.
Last week, Brown described in an interview with Univision how he would save the state money. In part, he said, to "begin with, I would cut back the governor's expenses, like the private jet, mansion and things considered luxuries."
The governor's office no longer owns a private jet or official residence. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pays for his own chartered plane to fly between Sacramento and his home in Brentwood, as well as flights to town hall events, fire scenes and other state business inside California, said his spokesman, Aaron McLear.
When Schwarzenegger travels out of state on California business, the private, donor-funded Protocol Foundation often picks up the tab, and the governor's political committee pays for campaign travel, McLear said.
"By and large, it's out of his own pocket. It's never the taxpayer," McLear said.
While records show the attorney general's state-owned plane has flown infrequently over the last year, Brown has repeatedly referenced Whitman's use of private planes. Whitman spokeswoman Andrea Jones Rivera said Brown should explain why his actions don't match his rhetoric.
"As recently as last week, he called state planes for politicians a 'luxury' he would sell off to solve the state budget, but today we find that he flew on his own state plane as recently as weeks ago," she said. "He should immediately disclose all trips he has flown on his taxpayer-funded state plane."