Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price last week took five separate flights on private jets, costing “tens of thousands of dollars” more in travel expenditures than his predecessors would have by using commercial options, Politico reports.
In a move that broke with precedent, Price jet set on corporate-style planes to Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, despite the Trump administration’s pledge to cut government waste.
“Tough choices had to be made to identify and reduce spending within the department,” Price told Congress when he pushed to cut his own department's budget by 18 percent. “Our goal is …. to decrease the areas where there are either duplications, redundancies or waste.”
One of the areas where there is apparently not redundancy or waste is in Price’s own travel arrangements, even as commercial plane, train and bus routes would have taken the HHS secretary to each of the aforementioned areas for a fraction of the cost.
Kathleen Sebelius, who served as HHS secretary under former President Barack Obama, told Politico she only took private planes to remote areas that required chartered aviation.
“The basic rules that our scheduling team worked under were, you flew commercial and you flew economy,” Sebelius said. “That’s just what they did.”
In a statement, a HHS spokesperson insisted “official travel by the secretary is done in complete accordance with Federal Travel Regulations.”
Former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub, who resigned in protest in July, called Price’s conduct “wasteful," saying it violates the “spirit” of Federal Travel Regulations.
“I can understand why the secretary might have to use a charter flight to get to a hurricane-devastated region, but Philadelphia is not one of those regions this year,” Shaub told Politico. “I find it hard to believe he couldn’t find a suitable commercial flight to Philadelphia.”
“Public office isn’t supposed to come with frivolous perks at taxpayer expense,” Shaub said.
“As part of the HHS mission to enhance and protect the health and well-being of the American people, Secretary Price travels on occasion outside Washington to meet face to face with the American people to hear their thoughts and concerns firsthand,” an HHS spokesperson told Politico. “When commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements, charter aircraft can be used for official travel.”
In 2009, Price posted a clip to YouTube of himself blasting Democrats for using private jets.
Watch that clip below: