Trump Cabinet Members in Hot Water Over Exorbitant Travel Expenses
Join the 168,491 people who've taken action on Countable this week
by Countable | 9.29.17
What’s the story?
It all started with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Now three Cabinet Members are being scrutinized for potential misuse of taxpayer money to fund their air travel. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are also under the gun, and some lawmakers are even calling for Price’s resignation.
Why does it matter?
The president’s cabinet is full of incredibly wealthy people. Price is estimated to be worth $13.6M. Mnuchin is estimated to be worth $385M. Pruitt is on the low end of the spectrum in the Cabinet, with an estimated worth of no more than $5M.
That kind of wealth can buy a lot of things, which normally would include expensive air travel, but now Price, Pruitt and Mnuchin are all under scrutiny for letting taxpayers pick up their tab.
Politico originally broke the story that Price had flouted precedent, chartering five private jets over the summer for work travel, despite commercial travel options being available. They later discovered that Price had chartered 26 private flights since his confirmation, costing taxpayers over $400,000. He also mixed business and pleasure on those trips, visiting personal friends and family members, as well as his private real estate holdings, in addition to his official duties.
Records show Pruitt has also taken multiple private and chartered military flights since mid-February, according to a report by the Washington Post. All flights were approved by the EPA’s Office of General Counsel, but are currently being reviewed by a congressional oversight committee. The Post notes that multiple EPA travel documents also state that when Pruitt flies commercial he chooses first class or business class due to "security concerns."
EPA spokespeople have asserted that all private flights were approved, and at least one was due to a delayed commercial flight which would have caused Pruitt to miss a scheduled appearance at the Gold King Mine in Colorado.
Finally, Mnuchin is under investigation by the Inspector General (IG) for his use of a military plane to fly to Kentucky with his wife, Louise Linton, in August. The IG seeks to determine if, "the couple followed ethics, appropriations and travel laws and observed certain policies," reports CBS News. Critics maintain Mnuchin was using the flight to view the solar eclipse, though he maintains that he was only in Kentucky for an event on the tax overhaul.
Mnuchin also has received scrutiny for a request he made to use a military aircraft to take his honeymoon. That request was denied.
According to Politico, President Trump is "fuming" over Price’s flights, and is being urged by some aides to fire him. Democratic lawmakers, headed by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), are also urging Price’s resignation and have introduced the SWAMP FLYERS Act (Stop Waste and Misuse by Presidential Flyers Landing Yet Evading Rules and Standards), which would outlaw use of private charters for government business.
Lieu issued a press release about the Act and added a statement:
"I can't believe we have to introduce a bill like this, but multiple Trump cabinet officials apparently believe taxpayer funds can be used for personal travel benefits. This culture of corruption in the Trump Administration must stop. Secretaries Price and Mnuchin, and Administrator Pruitt owe the American people an apology, and they should pay back the costs of their luxury travel on the taxpayer's dime. Since Secretary Price's actions are so egregious, he should resign immediately. The Trump Administration has already enlarged the swamp, but the tremendous disrespect shown to taxpayers by these senior officials is ridiculous. SAD!"
One of the wealthiest members of the president’s cabinet, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (estimated net worth of $1 billion) also uses private jets for her work travel, but she pays for them herself.
In response to the outcry, Price issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying that he would pay back the costs of his seat on chartered jet flights and that, "the taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes." The amount of his "seat" accounts for approximately $52,000 of the $400,000 total cost.
What do you think?
Is this use of taxpayer money to fund private and convenient travel for cabinet members appropriate? Should Price, Pruitt and Mnuchin have to reimburse the government for their travel? Should Price be fired? Or should they apologize and just have to sit in those swiftly shrinking seats in coach for the rest of their tenures?
Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!
— Asha Sanaker
(Photo Credit: David Brossard via Flickr / Creative Commons)
‘Consensus Calendar’ Clash May Derail Bill Protecting Military Survivors' Benefits From 'Widow's Tax'The second-most bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives faces an uncertain future after House Democrats voted last week
by Countable | 7.16.19
The DC: 🚫 House condemns Trump's 'go back' tweets, and... Should taxpayer-funded clinics be banned from referring women for abortions?Welcome to Wednesday, July 17, innies and outies...The House of Representatives voted to condemn as racist President Donald
by Countable | 7.17.19
Should Google Be Investigated for ‘Treason’ for Working With China?What’s the story? President Donald Trump said he will “take a look” at investigating Google for treason after investor Peter
by Countable | 7.16.19