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, who was already under investigation for his costly travel habits, has found himself under fire yet again for his tendency to travel using government jets.
These newest discoveries can be added to the 26 flights on private jets that were discovered to have cost the taxpayers approximately $400,000.
Price used a government-funded jet for two separate trips. The first was to fly to his property on St. Simons Island, a private resort in Georgia alongside his wife, as part of his trips to a medical conference. However, Price and his wife flew out a day and a half before he was scheduled to speak at the conference.
The second was on June 6, when HHS chartered a jet to transport Price to Nashville. The official reason for Price’s visit to Tennessee was to tour a medical dispensary and speak at a local health summit, one that was organized by a longtime, close friend of Price’s. Price and his wife also own a condo in Nashville, and conveniently that is the town in which his son lives. Price took this opportunity to meet up with his son, as well as some of his friends.
An HHS official stated that both trips, to Georgia and Tennessee, were for official government business, and had been paid for the department, not by the taxpayers. Richard Painter, who had served as the top ethics official for President George W. Bush, stated that while the trips may have been legal, they may be crossing some ethical boundaries, stating:
‘To use a charter flight on something that combines personal and government business, I think it’s highly unprofessional and really inappropriate.’
Although Price’s use of chartered aircraft is currently under investigation by the HHS inspector general, the HHS still maintains that Price is not in the wrong. According to the HHS, Price has not violated any Federal Travel Regulations. The regulations state that officials can charter their own plane if “no scheduled commercial airline service is reasonably available (i.e., able to meet your departure and/or arrival requirements within a 24-hour period, unless you demonstrate that extraordinary circumstances require a shorter period) to fulfill your agency’s travel requirement.”
However, it appears that Price didn’t even need to charter his plane for the trip to Tennessee, as there seems to have been many commercial flight options that Price could have utilized.
A department spokesperson previously stated, regarding Price’s frequent trips on private jets:
‘When commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements, charter aircraft can be used for official travel.’
Since HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson started a probe into Price’s flights, which was requested by House Democrats, Price seems to be laying low. Price has not been chartering private planes since the investigation was opened.
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