But data provided by Conklin & de Decker Associates, a Massachusetts-based aviation consulting company, show that the Dauphin costs $2,563 an hour to operate. "That's your maintenance, your fuel, the pilot cost, the insurance rate," said Brandon Battles, Conklin & de Decker vice president.
Schurick acknowledged that the invoices did not include charges for the pilots' waiting time, which typically costs $150 an hour.
`Benefit of the doubt'
Democrats expressed yesterday little appetite for seeking punishment for the apparent campaign finance violations.
"People should have known better in his campaign, but I think at this early stage of his gubernatorial career, he should be entitled to the benefit of the doubt," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. "Hopefully, they can disclose, he can learn, and we can move on."
Miller said the helicopter trips were less disturbing than reports that Ehrlich campaign workers promised $125 to Prince George's County college and high school students to work Election Day handing out "Democrats for Ehrlich" literature, but were never paid. State law prohibits payments for such activities.
"It's the kind of thing the campaign can do a little math for, write a few checks and walk away scot-free," said David Paulson, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party.