After ripping into predecessor Bill Richardson for using state airplanes for personal travel, perhaps New Mexico governor Susana Martinez thought it unwise to charter her own state plane — so instead, she took a state helicopter to carry her to a Republican fundraising event in 2011.
The governor had been at a Board of Finance meeting in Santa Fe since the morning, and the meeting ran longer than she had planned. Pressed for time, she recruited a state chopper to whisk her to the airport in Albuquerque, after which she caught a commercial flight to Houston.
Why the rush? She was expected at a series of fundraisers for the Republican Governors Association. Although the association paid for most of the travel, the state of New Mexico sprung for the chopper ride.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Republican Governors Association was Martinez’s biggest campaign contributor in 2010.
The chopper is usually used by the State Police; and by law, politicians are only permitted “use the powers and resources of public office only to advance the public interest.” A fundraiser for her political party hardly qualifies, and the ride cost an estimated $1,600. The helicopter itself cost the state $6.7 million, substantially more than the $5.5 million state jet that Richardson used.
Enrique Knell, spokesperson for the governor, told the Albuquerque Journal, “She took the aircraft in order to be able to attend the Board of Finance, which lasted way longer than normal. It would have been by state car, if the meeting hadn’t gone so long.”
And despite the governor’s protests of her predecessor using state airplanes, she herself has used an airplane provided by the General Services Department on 17 trips.
According to the Journal, Martinez has also hitched a ride on the helicopter on two other occasions.