Recently, The War Zone covered how former FBI Director James Comey was able to take a Department of Justice Gulfstream 550 jet for one last ride home:
It was almost satirical in its level of sensationalism. Not long after the White House delivered a letter to the FBI telling director James Comey that he has been fired, helicopters descended onto the sacked official’s motorcade as it made its way through Los Angeles. The O.J. Simpson-esque news alert ended with Comey stepping up the stairs of a glimmering Gulfstream 550 long-range private jet.
The appearance of the massive luxury aircraft left many wondering if top federal officials really get to travel in such grandiose fashion on a normal basis, especially on just a short jaunt to California.
The section on Comey was a precursor to a bigger piece on private aviation in government, and it got me thinking; who uses (and abuses) this privilege, and how has Congress not stopped this practice in its tracks already?
Tyler Rogoway of The War Zone did an excellent job of taking apart the practice in his article, and he cited a 2013 article from the New York Post which exposed former Attorney General Eric Holder being shuttled around on the two Gulfstream V (550) jets owned by the US government, largely for his own personal “non-mission” travel:
Never mind those budget cuts — US Attorney General Eric Holder likes to travel in style on a Gulfstream jet.
As the federal government braces for a new round of cost-cutting today, a new government report found that taxpayers shelled out $11.4 million in added costs to fly top Justice Department officials on the luxury jets.
Two Gulfstream V jets were leased by Congress in 2007 for the FBI to use for counter-terrorism operations, but the Government Accountability Office found 60 percent of flying hours were for “non-mission” flights.
Holder and his predecessor, AG Michael Mukasey, used the jets for business and personal trips 88 times, according to the GAO. FBI Director Robert Mueller has flown aboard the Gulfstream 10 times.
The Post went on, citing the “requirement” that the Attorney General and FBI Director need to fly on government aircraft for “security reasons” even if the trip is personal. And even though I’m inclined to say “bullshit, this guy is a government official, he works for us, fly him commercial”, nothing is worse than the “reimbursement” cost they are expected to pay for use of the private jets:
The AG and the FBI director are required to fly on government aircraft for security reasons, even on personal trips. But the report noted that there are aircraft available for their use that are much cheaper to fly.
And on personal trips, the officials have to reimburse the feds only for the cost of a coach ticket. When Holder flew to New York in 2010, he repaid the feds $421 for a Gulfstream flight that cost taxpayers $15,000.
So instead of taking an Amtrak Acela train from DC to New York City, a distance of about 225 or so miles, Holder needed a Gulfstream with a range of over 7,000 miles. Take note, this was for a personal trip; what would your employer say if you billed them over 35 times your out-of-pocket cost for “security” reasons?
But don’t worry, this is the same guy the state of California has hired to “take on” President Trump on “global warming”:
The Democratic-led #California Legislature has hired Eric Holder to help with any potential fights with the incoming administration, from global warming to immigration.
Hiring Holder, who is now a Washington-based attorney, provides a glimpse into how California will fight President-elect #Donald Trump on a host of issues.
You read that correctly; the guy who the state of California plans to have take on Trump on “climate change” is the same guy who takes a Gulfstream instead of a train to get around the Northeast Corridor. It would be funny, if it weren’t already so sad.
Rogoway summed this up quite well when he likened government expansion of private travel at the same time lawmakers were drilling CEOs for using the same private jets while laying off employees:
During the economic crash of 2008, CEO’s were blasted by lawmakers for using corporate jets while simultaneously laying off employees. Meanwhile, executives from the federal government—the most in-debt entity of them all—continued to use jets with nominal oversight. In fact, Congress actually moved to buy more private jets than the Department of Defense asked for in 2009. But things would come to a head as austerity measures began to be introduced on the federal government itself.
In 2013, Senator Charles Grassley, then the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that because of the high cost of using these aircraft the DOJ’s head honchos should not always use the big G550s or cut back on travel overall, stating:
“These luxury jets were supposedly needed for counterterrorism, but it turns out that they were used almost two-thirds of the time for jet-setting executive travel… Nobody disputes that the Attorney General and the FBI Director should have access to the secure communications, but, for instance, there’s no reason they can’t take a less expensive mode of transportation, or cut their personal travel.”
These Gulfstreams aren’t being used to put military assets anywhere in the globe on short notice – they’re being abused by government “executives” for their own personal leisure on the taxpayer’s dime. Even worse, expecting the legislature to do anything about this abuse is likely an exercise in frustration, as Senator Grassley has brought this up four years ago, and yet, the practice clearly still continues.
If a CEO, rich athlete, or tech mogul wants to shell out his own dollars on private travel, more power to them; as I’ve stated in the past, I have no problems with the practice. However, I’ve already touched on the hypocrisy of flying private while promoting “climate change”, as there is perhaps no higher per-capita activity any single person can engage in to dump CO2 into the atmosphere. Don’t worry though; it’s A-OK for former President Obama and former AG Holder to shuttle around in private aircraft while pushing taxes and even dietary restrictions on everyone else, all in the name of stopping “carbon emissions” from destroying us all.
No matter what, if you’re a non-military government official, you don’t need to waste the taxpayers’ money to get around – you can take the train or fly commercial just like anyone else. And while perhaps the best (and likely only) good thing about former FBI Director Comey was that both political parties hated him, abusing the privilege of private travel was as good a reason as any to fire him. Wouldn’t you be fired if you did the same thing at your job?
However, as Rogoway concludes, the practice will likely continue, no matter who replaces Comey:
With all this in mind, it is all but certain the next FBI Director will enjoy cruising around in a $55 million high-flying luxury jet just like his predecessor, no matter the destination.
On the bright side, the new FBI Director will be a Trump appointee, and will therefore likely not be a part of the “climate change” crusade. So while he will be wasting your tax dollars, with your elected officials unable and/or unwilling to stop it, at least he won’t be taking the government Gulfstream to a “climate change” conference.
One step at a time, right?