by Countable | 9.20.17
Last week Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price chartered five separate private jets for official business, according to reports in Politico, to locations in the northeast, including Philadelphia, which is only a two and a half hour drive from Washington, D.C.
Price has presented himself as a "champion of fiscal efficiency", criticizing federal spending and working to develop a plan to significantly reduce his department’s budget. In a statement to Congress about his budget Price noted the hard choices that must be made to benefit the American taxpayer:
"Tough choices had to be made to identify and reduce spending within the department. Our goal is to … [try] to decrease the areas where there are either duplications, redundancies or waste … and get a larger return for the investment of the American taxpayer."
Government officials using chartered flights to conduct official business is legal, but ethics watchdogs argue that the use of private jets in these cases betrays the "spirit" of the Federal Travel Regulations, which state that, “taxpayers should pay no more than necessary for your transportation.”
At approximately the same time that Secretary Price’s chartered flight to Philadelphia left Dulles International Airport in D.C. Politico found that there was a commercial flight available, which would have cost approximately $447-$725 per person. There were also four separate Amtrak trains available, at a price of $72 per person. Gas for a trip via car would have cost approximately $30 each way with an additional $16 in tolls.
A charter company that handles aircraft of the same type that Price used for the Dulles to Philadelphia flight estimated the cost at $25,000.
HHS staff reported to Politico that the Secretary has been using chartered flights for official business for months.
Official representatives at HHS responded to requests for comment by saying that the secretary uses charters when commercial flights are not "feasible," and that all his travel has been in accordance with federal regulations:
"Official travel by the secretary is done in complete accordance with Federal Travel Regulations."
Neither of Price’s immediate predecessors used chartered flights for any official travel except to remote areas of Alaska, according to former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
During the Secretary’s confirmation process ethics questions were raised concerning stock trades Price made in health-care companies while serving on a House panel overseeing Obamacare and other health issues.
Price also attracted controversy in May when he visited West Virginia’s statehouse and a reporter was arrested for asking him questions about the House’s attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act. The reporter, Dan Heyman, was handcuffed and charged with a misdemeanor count of willful disruption of government processes. He spent eight hours in jail until his employer, the Public News Service, posted his $5,000 bail.
Is Secretary Price violating the "spirit" of Federal Travel Regulations? Should the Office of Government Ethics look into the cost of Price’s travel and whether or not less expensive options were “feasible”? If Secretary Price is calling for “cost efficiencies” for his department, do his travel choices make sense? Do the Secretary’s choices around travel matter to you at all?
Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!
— Asha Sanaker
(Photo Credit: Mark Taylor via Flickr/ Creative Commons)
Written by Countable
The federal government is bilking the American people and it comes from the top down, and when the boss is stealing and using his position for personal gains, this is what you get. We need the federal investigation to come to bring these people to justice.
Private jets!? Why are ethical issues like this just suggests? Make them LAW. No private jets at tax payer expense!!
As your constituent, I demand that you immediately hold oversight hearings and issue subpoenas to investigate how HHS Secretary STOLE our money to enrich himself.
GOP crying poor on health care while the HHS Secretary flies private jets. Yeah, that’s fair.
Price is a fraud. Not only should he not be able to charter jets, to save money, he ought to be told to walk.
Private jets....need to go. Amtrak....ok with that as work can be done while traveling. Overall, this type of waste needs to be scrutinized, identified, and parameters put in place to either eliminate or significantly limit to special circumstances.
Just another scumbag like the rest of them.
Mr. Price is just another hypocritical, entitled Trump appointee. From the janitor to the president himself all government travel should be required to comply with the letter and the spirit of the Federal Travel Regulations. The operative phrase is "shall not cost the taxpayers more than necessary." Assuming the travel itself is necessary, and not just to check out a new lunch spot, the cost also must be necessary. A mode of travel which is more prestigious, more fun, more comfortable or even more convenient, does not rise to the level of necessary.
This better be coming out of his pocket And he must report on his income tax as a perk and be taxed
No ethics concerns with this? Does everyone in this administration feel entitled? Cut every entitlement program for the poor but put your rich butt on private plane and fly on the taxpayers money. Shame on all of you.
Someone needs to get a handle on tom price and make him stop spending taxpayer money on expensive flights when cheaper options are available.
Hypocrisy is the term that comes to mind. He can be frugal when it doesn’t affect or when it suits him. 🙁
No one should be allowed to fly privately except the President and the Vice President, except in cases of the most extreme need. These people are our public servants and are in office to serve the people of the United States. If they want to live and travel so luxuriously as part of their work they should look for jobs in the private sector.
What do you expect, he's the Liar in Chief's rich pal. I bet by the time this administration is voted out of office, they'll have cost the taxpayers billions in travel expenses, etc. Look what the scumbag Sec. of Treasury tried to get away with by asking to have use of a gov't. jet for his honeymoon. These wealthy leeches are just following in their boss's footsteps. "Let everyone else pick up the tab"....
I would expect no less from a Trump Administration official. Still, this boils my blood knowing that slimy, son-of-a-jackal Tom Price is wasting OUR TAX DOLLARS on needless private jet travels. This is the same freaking guy who called himself a "fiscal conservative" that opposes all wasteful government spending. Loathsome hypocrite. Moral of this story: Anyone who says they are a fiscal conservative means that they oppose wasteful government spending, except whenever it benefits them. We need to repeal and replace Congress in 2018 with one that will investigate and prosecute "Evil" Price!
Hold Price Accountable! No private jets and exorbitant personal spending!
They should have a budget and there is no need to have a private jet. They should pay for anything over budget. When I worked for VA we used government car to drive several hours and had credit card for gas. They can work in regular flights or have chauffeur and work in car. They are abusing position. They should pay and turn in justification snd ask for reimbursement. We had to do that for money we spent. This is outrageous and expecting money for honeymoon. If it's so important-go alone or not at all
Corruption and unethical, immoral practices never cease under the self-proclaimed fiscally responsible Republicans/ Conservatives.
This is a prime example of the privileged elite. Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”, seems to have taken on new meaning. Or the idea that he’s going to “drain the swamp” has gotten just a little murkier. For those who believed Trump’s rhetoric during his campaign spent to much time watching reality TV and not enough time researching their candidate. His slogans were just window dressing. “MAGA” is camouflage to hide Trumps intent and give his supporter a warm and fussy feeling. “Drain the swamp” meaning he’s going to get rid of anyone in D.C. that apposes him so he can install his own set of crooks. Trump is still the person he was before he started his run for the office of the President. He lied, cheated, misled, broke the law, didn’t honor his contracts and where he could he without embarrassment bled companies dry. Why should we be surprised that the people he associates with have the same low moral and ethical characteristics. Trump himself and his family have cost more in transportation expenses the few months he’s been in office than Obama did the entire 8 years of his Presidency. Should Price be embarrassed, Yes, but we, the citizens of the US, should be ashamed as well. We put Trump in office and by extension Price. We put a Republican Congress in office that has stood by quietly while our tax dollars are being taken advantage luxury rides and those people who voted for Trump should be enraged because of the abuse. The Emperor has no pants but no one cares everyone is still watching a reality show but no one is protecting our country. We deserve what we get. If we do not reclaim our country in 2018 and 2020 to put our house in order, we may have no house after Trump and his cronies and this Republican Congress is done.
Wouldn't it be lovely if officials like Price road public transportation with the rest of us? High speed improvements along the Eastern corridor has been thrown around and rejected as too expensive, but is a part of transportation that is used by millions of us tax payers. Seems to me suggests for how to get places quickly without flying would be a better use of tax payers money. Maybe laws should be written to encourage, reward and incentivize that way.