Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price has been making headlines recently, and for all the wrong reasons:
Fighting to keep his job, health secretary Tom Price says he’ll write a personal check to reimburse taxpayers for his travel on charter flights taken on government business and pledged to fly commercial — “no exceptions.”
The repayment — $51,887.31, according to Price’s office — covered only the secretary’s seat. Price did not address the overall cost of the flights, which could amount to several hundred thousand dollars and is under investigation.
“I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars,” Price said in a statement. “I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer.” His mea culpa came a day after a public rebuke from President Donald Trump.
Putting a stop to government officials using private jets for personal travel is long overdue, as this author has stated in the past. However, Price is hardly the first public official to abuse private jets for personal travel. I first wrote about this six months ago, when former FBI Director James Comey took a Gulfstream 550 back to DC after being fired by President Trump:
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.
Price, Comey and Holder are just the tip of the iceberg; Breitbart exposed a number of other Democratic bureaucrats and politicians who for years had gotten away with the mainstream media ignoring their conduct:
In 2012, reports emerged that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had charged the taxpayers at least $800,000 dollars for flights home to California from Washington, DC, every weekend. He “billed the government $32,000 per private flight home,” the Atlantic noted at the time, but only reimbursed the taxpayers $632 per flight. While he “regretted” the cost, Panetta said that he had no intention of stopping the flights. And — in his defense — he was following the procedures required by law since the George W. Bush administration for Cabinet officials’ flights.
The use — or abuse — of government aircraft was not limited to Obama administration officials. In 2007, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was found to have requested military aircraft for a variety of trips, at times insisting on a larger plane and military escorts. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said later, after publishing documents related to Pelosi’s travel requests : “Speaker Pelosi treats the Air Force like her personal airline.”
Undoubtedly, there have been many other officials and politicians from both parties who have taken the taxpayer for a free or far-below-cost ride on a government jet. But it was extremely refreshing to see President Trump finally call out one of them for this abuse:
“I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it,” Trump said in response to reporters as he left the White House for a trip to Indiana. “I am not happy about it, and I let him know it.”
A Politico investigation revealed that Price has flown 26 times on private aircraft since last May, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When asked whether he would fire Price, Trump replied, “We’ll see.”
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) September 27, 2017
It is anything but surprising to see that that “SwampWatch” is completely unaware of the conduct of Holder, Comey, Panetta, and all the other Obama administration officials who abused government private jets. Perhaps he will retroactively ask for their resignations?
President Trump is merely following the same example he set when he called out the ridiculous expense of Air Force One; he is prepared to go after the abuse of taxpayer funds at every level of government, not just the big-ticket military projects. This is in direct contradiction to his predecessor, who ignored the private travel abuse of his administration while he was President, and has gone on to fly private all the way to Italy to demand the rest of the world eat less meat to combat “climate change”:
In true Obama fashion, he made sure to decry the rest of the planet for spewing “harmful” carbon into the atmosphere, but only after traveling to Milan via private jet and being shuttled to a $20,000/night suite in the center of the city via a 14-car caravan:
The former US president met former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Monday and will speak about climate change at a sold-out conference on Tuesday.
He arrived in Italy’s business capital by private jet with his entourage and reportedly took over two floors of the Park Hyatt hotel – where presidential suite rooms cost almost $10,000 a night.
It is a breath of fresh to see one of our leaders call out this abuse of taxpayer dollars, as our elected (and unelected) officials have been “getting their way” on the taxpayer dime for far too long…
…then again, Trump himself better be careful, or else he might find himself in the crosshairs of similar cost-cutting on travel.
UPDATE: Secretary Price has resigned over his abuse of government private jets. As Zerohedge has noted, four other members of Trump’s administration have similar questions about private jet abuse, and could face discipline or termination as a result:
- Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency administrator
- Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary
- Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior
- David Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
It is a great sign of things to come that our top (unelected) bureaucrats are being held accountable for their (ab)use of private jets. The only question should be, why wasn’t a similar standard held to the Obama administration, as well as every other administration in the last 40-50 years?