Longtime political columnist Charlie Pierce wrote in Esquire Tuesday that the recent news about the sweet real estate deal for the former Secretary of Agriculture certainly isn't the biggest corruption news from the former Trump administration. Instead, it's only the latest in a long list of Donald Trump's appointees who used their offices to personally benefit and enrich themselves.
The legal scandals facing Donald Trump might draw front-page reports, so lesser-known White House appointees are benefitting from quieter coverage of their corruption.
Such was the case, Pierce argued, with Sonny Perdue. The Washington Post exposed his questionable deal Tuesday in which he was able to buy land worth millions for just $250,000.
"Had anyone noticed, it would have prompted questions ahead of his confirmation, a period when most nominees lie low and avoid potential controversy," wrote the Post. "The former governor of Georgia did not disclose the deal — there was no legal requirement to do so."
Pierce cited the point noting that there were questions similar to those asked about nearly every Cabinet appointee in 2017.
"Remember Steve Mnuchin, who 'forgot' to list almost $100 million in assets on his mandatory disclosure form?" recalled Pierce. "Wilbur Ross got caught using bookkeeping chicanery to 'lose' more than $2 billion in assets. Questions were prompted by all of this, and yet, Mnuchin and Ross and the rest of them were all confirmed. So the prompted questions were just so much afternoon breeze. We continue."
Then there's the matter of the corruption that persisted while the secretaries were in office. Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was caught using government helicopters to chauffeur him to ride horses. The cost of the helicopter rides were taken out of a fund allocated to prepare for wildfires.
Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt was the first to go in Trump's team after a long list of scandals and controversies. He spent taxpayer dollars to shuttle himself back and forth between Oklahoma and Washington when he could have flown on commercial aircraft. Pruitt declared that the fancy travel was necessary for his own security. He spent $1,400 on "tactical pants" using taxpayer dollars as well. Pruitt was also caught using his staff for his own personal errands like "driving him around to find a lotion from Ritz-Carlton hotels" and buy him his favorite snacks.
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was the second of the secretaries to fall after it was discovered he spent $1.2 million in taxpayer money on "chartered aircraft, military aircraft, commercial aircraft or the fleet of planes equipped for use by the president and the vice president," The New York Times reported at the time. The inspector general at the time looked at 21 total trips and found that "20 of the 21 flights did not comply with federal requirements."
Pierce went on to highlight the scandal involving Perdue citing documents that revealed he knew he was scoring the land for approximately 16 times less than its value.
"And at the end of this historical pipeline of raw corporate sewage were, allegedly, the greedy fingers of Sonny Perdue, an official of an administration dedicated to the gospel of Anything Goes. And, generally, it did," Pierce closed.