Henry Cuellar Used ‘Campaign Funds’ For A Private Plane That He Owns And Is ‘Renting’ It To Himself

Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar funneled nearly $100,000 in campaign funds to a corporation he used to register a private jet. HC Air, a now-defunct corporation, was registered in 1997 using his campaign office address. According to FAA documents, the Congressman owned a Piper PA-31-310 aircraft through the corporation. The twin-engine plane seats up to nine passengers and costs roughly $100,000.

Cuellar described HC Air in 2007 as an “airplane rental” company worth between $100,000 and $250,000. The firm appears to have generated little money outside of his 2007-2011 campaign. From 2007 through 2011, he claimed to get just $2,500 to $5,000 in “S-corp revenue” from it. According to FEC data, no other campaign employed the firm during that time.

Moreover, Cuellar served in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2005, representing Texas’ 28th Congressional District. He faces a primary solid battle from Democrat Jessica Cisneros, who has accused him of being unethical and out of touch. The lawmaker is linked to an ongoing FBI investigation into Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, and “many US businesspeople.” Amid the inquiry, his house and campaign headquarters were searched in January.

Cuellar’s choice to use his campaign funds to pay for his own business raises the “possibility of misuse,” according to an ethics expert. Cuellar is not permitted to utilize donor cash to cover personal vacations under federal campaign finance guidelines. His campaign expenditures to HC Air nearly equaled the plane’s value, so that he may have overpaid.

According to public records, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar spent more than $10,000 on airplane repairs during his 2001 campaign for Secretary of State. During his brief tenure as Texas Secretary of State, the Democrat also spent donor monies on the jet. His campaign has also given his wife and daughter thousands of dollars and spent thousands in campaign funds at a BMW dealership.

Therefore Rep. Henry Cuellar’s campaign borrowed more than $100,000 from 2002 to 2004, at a 6% interest rate, and collected more than $24,000 in interest payments from his campaign during the 2008 election season. It isn’t the first time he’s been investigated for dubious campaign expenditures. The primary came two years after Cisneros failed to topple him by four goals in 2020.