Many members of the Trump administration have been coming under fire for travel expenditures, as they have been choosing to travel by corporate-style jets. This deters from the practices of the Obama-era secretaries who chose to fly commercially while within the continental U.S.
Health and Human Secretary Tom Price took private jets for 5 separate flights, reportedly for official business. Not surprisingly, the cost of these private flights ended up being significantly higher than would have been spent on commercial travel, should the secretary have chosen to go this route.
For one of the flights in question, his destination was to a resort in Maine, where Price participated in a Q&A discussion alongside a health care industry CEO. He also traveled to community health centers within New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, according to internal HHS documents. The flights were scheduled mid-September, between the 13th and the 15th.
Originally, the spokespeople at HHS declined to comment on the details of Price’s flights, or respond to questions as to where the expense of the flights were directed. However, a spokesperson did say that Price often takes charter planes when it isn’t feasible to take a commercial flight. The organizations that hosted Price last week all stated that they did not cover the expenses of Price’s flights or other travel-related costs.
The same spokespeople refused to comment on why Price believed that commercial travel would not be feasible. According to POLITICO, on one portion of Price’s trip, there was a commercial flight that would depart at around the same time as Price’s charter plane. According to airport records, a flight departed for Philadelphia at 8:22 am. Price’s charter left Dulles International Airport heading to Philadelphia around 8:27 am. This begs the question, how unfeasible would taking a commercial flight really be?
Tom Price will now face an inspector general’s investigation, given that these recent flights are not the only time that Price has chartered jets within the past few months, at the taxpayers’ expense. It was reported that Price took 24 chartered flights since May alone.
On Friday, it was announced that the agency intends to request records of Price’s various travel expenses. They will also look further into the justifications presented by Price and his team, as the trips have cost the taxpayers approximately $300,000 overall.
According to General Daniel R. Levinson, HHS spokesperson, the flights appear to violate federal laws, which were put in place to make sure that executive branch officials use the most economical means of transportation possible when they need to travel for work-related events or meetings.
Tesia D. Williams, a spokeswoman for Levinson, stated:
‘OIG is conducting a review of Secretary Price’s Federal travel using chartered aircraft. The review focuses on whether the travel complied with Federal Travel Regulations, but may encompass other issues related to the travel. We take this matter very seriously, and when questions arose about potentially inappropriate travel, we immediately began assessing the issue. I can confirm that work is underway and will be completed as soon as possible.’
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