The Sun News, Matt Silfer, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, of Texas, speaks during a campaign event in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012.

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has been spending large amounts on airfare as a congressman, flying first class on dozens of taxpayer-funded flights to his home state. The practice conflicts with the image that Paul portrays as the only presidential candidate serious about cutting federal spending.

His congressional staff says Paul chose not to buy the cheaper economy tickets at a fraction of the price because they aren't refundable or as flexible for scheduling.

An AP review of Paul's congressional expenses and average airfares found that Paul charged taxpayers nearly $52,000 on the more expensive tickets, or $27,621 more than the average Continental airfare for the flights between Washington and Houston.

Paul portrays himself as the most frugal and serious deficit hawk in the race.