Instead of taking a commercial airline flight or a regular car, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent $14,000 in taxpayer dollars to use government helicopters.
According to travel logs obtained by Politico under a Freedom of Information Act request, Zinke used helicopters over the summer to fly himself to and from events near Washington, D.C. The excuse is that he wanted to attend the swearing-in ceremony for his replacement, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), in the U.S. Congress. The second was so that he could go on a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence.
The first flight was to and from Shepherdstown, West Virginia, costing taxpayers $8,000. Zinke's staff claimed "official business" prevented the Secretary from making the two-hour drive to witness an emergency management exercise.
“Driving to [the West Virginia event] would not enable him to be on time and fully participate as scheduled,” a staffer told Politico.
Zinke has already been caught using government funded planes and military aircraft to take him to and from events instead of using commercial flights. One trip from Las Vegas to Whitefish, Montana cost taxpayers $12,375 because Zinke used a Beechcraft King Air 200. He spoke at an event for the city's new professional hockey team after an announcement earlier in the day about public lands.
He’s became the fourth senior official in President Donald Trump’s cabinet caught using private jets to travel instead of commercial flights. The other cabinet members include EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has taken multiple trips back and forth to Oklahoma. Most notably, however, is former Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was caught spending $1 million so far on private jets and the use of military planes.