Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of the most prominent voices on climate change, spent nearly $300,000 in private air travel in October alone.
Sanders traveled across the country to stump for Democrat candidates ahead of the November midterm elections. He was also working on exploring another run for president after he lost to Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primary in 2016.
Sanders, 77, is technically an independent, but sides with the Democrats on practically all issues. A self-described socialist, he was once considered by Democrats to be on the fringes, but as the party has moved further left in recent years, he’s found more support among them.
Federal campaign finance reports obtained by watchdog website Vermont Digger showed that the senator’s official 2018 Senate campaign committee spent $297,685 with Apollo Jets, a private charter jet service based in New York.
The Vermont senator went to nine battleground states, including Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina. He flew as far as California.
“This cost covered the entirety of the tour from Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, California, and back to Vermont,” senior communications adviser for the committee, Friends for Bernie Sanders, told the Digger.
She claimed he had to use the private jet service because it “allow[ed] the senator to campaign in all of the states where candidates wanted his help and get back to Vermont in order to join the Vermont Democratic Party coordinated campaign’s final GOTV efforts.”
“As Bernie often said while encouraging voters to get involved leading up to Election Day, this was the most important midterm election in our lifetimes and he wanted to have maximum impact,” she added.
She said that the campaign paid nearly $5,000 to NativeEnegy for carbon offsets.
The environmental impact of private air flights far higher than normal flights because the flights carry fewer people. Air travel is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, according to some scientists. David Suzuki, a sustainable ecologist in Canada, said in a blog post that when jet fuel is burned, the carbon in the fuel is released and bonds with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. Aviation “accounts for four to nine percent of the total climate change impact of human activity,” he said.
Sanders has referred to climate change in an emphatic manner; for instance, on the day the check was sent to Apollo Jets, he said on Twitter that “climate change is a planetary crisis.” Sanders has proposed legislation that would include a carbon tax, similar to the tax that provoked widespread backlash in France. He has also claimed climate change is a bigger threat than the ISIS terrorist group. He made the claim a day after ISIS murdered over 100 people in Paris.
Sanders used planes frequently to travel while running for president in 2015 and 2016. He spent $1.65 million on private jets in February 2016 alone. After losing the race, he’s continued to spend on private air travel, dropping nearly $40,000 on luxury private jets during the third quarter of 2017, for instance.
Sanders himself has not appeared to address his frequent private air travel.