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Jay Rockefeller doesn't go to West Virginia, even when Congress takes a month-long recess in August

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Politics,Congress,Travel,Watchdog,Senate,West Virginia,Campaigns,EXography,Luke Rosiak,Accountability,Jay Rockefeller

Ever waited in an airport screening line watching Transportation Security Administration officers poking and prodding old ladies and little kids, then asking yourself, "How could they make a system like this?"

The person who could change that scene is Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

His job includes holding TSA's feet to the fire, conducting oversight and injecting common sense into bureaucrats when they seem to have lost their own.

Rockefeller, maybe more than anybody else, is in a position to develop a more sensible airport security screening system.

But Rockefeller does not wait in TSA lines because he doesn't fly commercial, as the Washington Examiner reported Thursday.

The city he flies to when he returns to the state he represents, Charleston, W.Va., is well-served by an airport with multiple nonstop flights to and from the nation's capital each day. The flight takes only an hour and a round-trip ticket costs as little as $206. That's good, because per capita annual income in West Virginia is $22,000.

But Rockefeller insists on traveling by private plane, at a cost of up to $10,000 (his average plane ride costs $4,400).

That means that in two one-hour flights, Rockefeller burns through all the cash that a typical West Virginian will earn in six months.

It’s a mode of travel fit for an heir to the Rockefeller fortune. But the Rockefellers aren't paying. The taxpayers are.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, by comparison, went home 110 times in three years at a cost of $95,000. Rockefeller spent $140,000 in taxpayer money returning to his much closer state only 32 times during the same period.

That’s roughly 10 trips a year, which amounts to practically no presence in the state Rockefeller represents. But there's more to the story.

Lawmakers typically go home from Thursday to Monday, plus a few longer weekends during breaks. Their most intense on-the-ground period is going on right now, the five-week August "recess" which is officially termed a "district work period."

Some lawmakers can’t make it home every weekend, but all of them spend some uninterrupted quality time with constituents during the month of August.

All except Rockefeller. Senate disbursement records analyzed by the Examiner indicate that even when Congress shuts down and there is no conceivable reason for Rockefeller to be in Washington, he does not return to West Virginia.

His travel records show no trips between June 2, 2011, and Nov. 18, 2011.

As most lawmakers flew home for five weeks at the end of July 2012, he flew to West Virginia for only a one-day trip at a cost of $8,039. The rest of August, he wasn't doing Washington-focused work, but apparently wasn't doing West Virginia work, either.

Disbursement records show no trips between Sept. 15, 2012, and Jan. 10, 2013. And none during the 2013 August recess. (See his full travel schedule.)

Records for this summer won't be available for some time, but a staffer in Rockefeller's Charleston office said the senator "is not in state right now."

Asked if there would be any opportunities for constituents to meet with him, such as a town hall meeting, the staffer said “nothing is scheduled as of yet” — with the recess almost over.

Rockefeller is retiring at the end of the year. Whether he will remain in his $18 million D.C. mansion or head to West Virginia seems obvious.

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