Missouri GOP files complaint over McCaskill travel

WASHINGTON — Missouri Republicans on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill for paying for a political trip with taxpayer funds.

The state Republican Party said that McCaskill, a Democrat facing re-election next year, used a private aircraft that she co-owns with her husband and others and billed the costs to her Senate account. Senate rules specify that the funds may be used only for official business.

“What she did was wrong,” said Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. “She used taxpayer money to pay for a political trip.”

McCaskill was unavailable for comment. But her spokeswoman, Maria Speiser, acknowledged that billing the flight to the office account was an unintentional mistake and that McCaskill was “beyond embarrassed.”

Last week McCaskill repaid the $1,220 costs of the flight to Hannibal, Mo. The March 2007 trip was part of the Missouri Democratic Party’s annual “Hannibal Days” event.

In all, she repaid the government more than $88,000 to cover not only the costs of the Hannibal trip but nearly 90 other flights since 2007 that her representative said were for legitimate Senate business.

McCaskill aides added that, while the senator had not violated any ethics rules, she repaid the costs for all of the flights to dispel any notion that she had benefited financially from using the plane.

The GOP’s complaint, however, alleged that she did benefit.

“The reasons to file a complaint like this are to confirm a problem and fix it, which has been done,” Speiser said. “This reason it’s being done today is nothing more than a political stunt.”