Trouble for Mary Landrieu

Mary Landrieu is a survivor. Three times the citizens of red Louisiana have elected her to the Senate, never with more than 52.1 percent of the vote.

This year, saddled with the Obama presidency, Landrieu is essentially even with Republican Bill Cassidy in the polls. She fails to crack 46 percent in most of them. That kind of number often signals doom for an incumbent, but Landrieu is too good a politician — too much the survivor — to be written off.

Now, however, news has emerged that Landrieu used her official Senate fund — in other words, taxpayer money — to finance campaign flights. Last November, she used $3,200 of Senate funds on a round-trip flight between New Orleans and Lake Charles for a campaign event. In addition, she used $5,700 for a chartered flight from New Orleans to Shreveport and then from Shreveport to Dallas for a fundraiser last September.

Landrieu says she will reimburse the $5,700. She thereby effectively concedes wrongdoing and complies with the law only after been caught.

Landrieu has also ordered that her counsel review all payments made with official funds for her flights during her 18 years of service in the Senate. Presumably, she hopes to show that the abuses uncovered by others were isolated events, and hopes that there won’t be enough time between the release of her findings and the election to contradict this.

Diverting a few thousand dollars from a Senate fund to a campaign fund is small potatoes by Louisiana standards of corruption. But Landrieu can ill afford even a small scandal now, given the closeness of her race.

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