What is it with the Donald Trump Cabinet? An alarming number of them appear to believe that their terms in public service are all about entitlement, and they are spending taxpayers’ money with abandon. A new Cabinet scandal broke today.
Tom Price, the former secretary of Housing and Human Services (HHS), just lost his job because he helped himself to over one million dollars of publicly-funded chartered and military flights. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has flown back and forth on chartered private jets to his home state of Oklahoma, where people speculate he is going to run for governor. Then, there is the Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, who thought it would be just peachy to take a $25,000 per hour military plane on his European honeymoon.
Now, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has walked into the public spotlight. In early June, she originally planned to fly commercially to Detroit for an American roads event. Then, she decided to fly on one of the government executive aircrafts at a cost of almost $5,000 per hour.
The government keeps what The Washington Post describes as:
‘(A) fleet of taxpayer-funded executive aircraft (the FAA fleet) that have long served the U.S. and international travel needs of transportation secretaries.’
Chao is a very wealthy woman, married to Republican Majority House Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Her family owns a large shipping concern and handed over a substantial amount of cash to McConnell when they married.
Thus far, the secretary of transportation has taken the government’s Gulfstream IV in addition to leasing two Cessnas for a total of seven times in the past eight months. Some of those trips were only an hour away from Washington, D.C., by air. She also flew on the taxpayers’ dime to Italy and France, at a cost of “tens of thousands of dollars,” according to the Washington Post. She attended the June Paris Air Show for commercial and military aircraft. U.S. transportation officials commonly attend.
From Paris, she flew to Sardinia, an Italian island. There, she spoke at a Group of 7 Summit ministerial conference. The return trip alone cost taxpayers almost $37,000.
In order for any secretary to take one of the FAA planes, they must justify the reason in writing, along with a comparative pricing analysis justification. Acceptable reasons could be scheduling problems or security issues.
President George W. Bush’s former transportation secretary from 2006 to 2009, Mary Peters said she only used the FFA planes “a handful of times,” according to the Washington Post:
‘Rarely ever did we use anything but commercial.’
Chao’s spokesperson, Marianne McInerney, said that the secretary is careful in her use of private planes:
‘The secretary is very sensitive to concerns about appropriate use of taxpayers’ funds. She always tries to travel in the most cost-efficient manner possible.’
After all, the FFA planes do not provide food or beverages.
Check out this video about Chao’s use of private jets via the Washington Post:
Featured Image via Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla.