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Bean Counter of Indian Finances Made Taxpayers Pay for Private Plane

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is expected to pay back the U.S. Department of the Treasury a hefty sum of taxpayer money that she used to pay to fly her family’s private plane around her state.

McCaskill's office said March 10 that “she will repay $88,000 including $76,000 to charter the plane owned by a holding company registered to her husband and $12,000 in pilot fees.”

McCaskill’s spending quickly drew attention from Native Americans who have seen her leading efforts to crack down on federal contracts to Alaska Native Corporations and tribes. A common complaint has been that she has made it appear that tribes and Natives have done something wrong when they say they have been justly following the law.

"It's hypocrisy of the highest order," said Sarah Lukin, director of the Native American Contractors Association. "She wages a misguided attack on ANCs and tribes, claiming to serve taxpayer interests, as she uses taxpayer funds to finance her private jet.

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"The senator has spent years irresponsibly assailing ANCs and tribes that are working hard to provide real value to their disadvantaged communities. All the while, she has been using taxpayer money to subsidize private flights for her and her family. It's outrageous."

On the plane matter, Maria Speiser, a spokeswoman for the senator, told CNN, “Sen. McCaskill is interested in three things when it comes to using a charter plane to travel in Missouri: doing it as cheaply as possible, following the letter of the law, and doing it as rarely as possible.

“She understands that the optics of the bigger picture may not seem as cut and dry, so she’s more than happy to address that concern as well,” Speiser said, adding that the cost of the senator’s air travel has averaged “a fraction of the cost of chartered air travel in Missouri” when compared to former senators in her state.

Still, the situation is already raising questions of hypocrisy beyond Indian country. The executive director for the Missouri state GOP told CNN, “Time after time, Missourians have watched as Claire McCaskill says one thing and does the opposite. She condemned extravagant taxpayer-funded travel by members of Congress-then she billed taxpayers for her own travel on her husband's private plane.”