Idaho House Speaker Michael Simpson admitted Friday that he was wrong to use a state-owned plane for a seven-city tour kicking off his Republican congressional campaign in eastern and southern Idaho’s 2nd District.
The Blackfoot dentist said his campaign would reimburse the state for the full cost of a commercial charter for Wednesday’s flight, plus the pilot’s salary for the day.
He said the total would be $1,145.50. The campaign said the Idaho Division of Aeronautics would charge a state agency $1,002.50.
Simpson said his campaign also has contacted the Federal Election Commission to advise them of the error.
“No one in the office intended any wrongdoing, and everyone cooperated in correcting it,” he said.
“You can be sure that we’ll be the first ones to point the finger at ourselves when we foul up.”
The twin-engine plane Simpson used is reserved for state employees on official business. The Division of Aeronautics bills state officials’ offices at a rate that covers the division’s costs.
Simpson said his campaign office assistant called the Division of Aeronautics for recommendations on dependable charter companies and pilots, and that a new Aeronautics employee took the call, heard Simpson’s name and assumed the flight would be official business.
Not until late in the trip, which began in Boise, did Simpson’s campaign manager, Jeff Schrade, realize they were riding in a state-owned plane. The candidate said there are no state markings on the aircraft’s exterior.