A first-class scandal for ‘Luxury Lars’
Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the former PM and the leader of opposition party Venstre, has come under fire after it was revealed that he has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer kroner by flying first-class around the world while chairing the international climate organisation, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).
A freedom of information request from Ekstra Bladet tabloid revealed that Rasmussen has used 770,000 kroner in development funds while travelling on behalf of GGGI, which receives 90 million kroner a year in support from the Development Ministry.
Danish ministers usually travel in business class, which is far less expensive, but Rasmussen travelled on lavish first-class tickets 15 times at an average price of 64,000 kroner per ticket.
Christian Friis Bach (Radikale), the development minister who also serves as a board member at GGGI, has demanded that Rasmussen explain why his travel expenses are so high. Rasmussen’s travel expenses for GGGI were three times higher than those incurred by Bach.
“The government requires transparency and the responsible use of our money in all the organisations that we support, including GGGI,” Bach told Ekstra Bladet. “I expect Lars Løkke Rasmussen to orientate the GGGI board on the expenses.”
But Rasmussen has denied any wrongdoing, arguing that he has adhered to GGGI's travel guidelines. He indicated that he feels no need to explain his expenses further.
“The development minister is on the board and is head of the financial committee, the organisation’s financial board, if you will. So he has full access to all the information he needs,” Rasmussen told DR Nyheder.
Responsibility beyond guidelines
But Jonas Dahl, the political spokesperson for coalition party Socialistisk Folkeparti, echoed Bach’s sentiments, contending that Rasmussen has a responsibility to use taxpayer funds properly, whatever the guidelines say.
“To follow guidelines is one thing, but as a politician you are responsible for tax kroner being spent appropriately,” Dahl told Børsen financial daily. “Danish development money is part of this project and it is Lars Løkke’s duty to ensure that the money is well spent. I don’t believe he has lived up to that.”
GGGI has informed the Development Ministry that, in future, Rasmussen will have to settle for travelling business class while working to promote improved climate and growth in developing countries.
2,000 kroner = new pair of shoes
It is the second time in just a week in which Rasmussen attracted the wrath of his colleagues for perceived elitist behaviour.
Earlier this week, during parliament’s first-ever direct debate between the head of government and the leaders of other political parties, Rasmussen put an expensive foot in his mouth when he said that the 2,000 kroner difference between working and receiving public benefits amounted to the price of a pair of shoes.
The exuberant travel expense drama and the shoe remark followed in the wake of Venstre’s recent budget proposal for next year, which maintained that the social welfare system should be trimmed and that “no stone should be left unturned.”
The 'Luxury Lars' issue – which is being widely lampooned on social media – seems to have cost Venstre some voter support, as a Gallup poll from Friday showed that Venstre was the preferred party of 27 percent of voters. The party had been polling as high as 32.2 percent.