Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price reportedly spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on private jet flights to official meetings, including $25,000 on a 135-mile flight from DC to Philadelphia, and therefore breaking with the precedent of former cabinet secretaries who flew commercial when they traveled around the U.S., Politico reported.
According to the news outlet, his travels between Sept. 13 and 15 would likely cost at least $60,000.
“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.”
An HHS spokesperson said official travel by the secretary “is done in complete accordance with Federal Travel Regulations.”
The Hill added:
But Walter Shaub, the former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics, questioned why Price used the charter flights to get to his destinations last week.
“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,” he said.
“I find it hard to believe he couldn’t find a suitable commercial flight to Philadelphia.”
He added that public office shouldn’t come with “frivolous perks at taxpayer expense.”
“This wasteful conduct reflects disdain for the ethical principle of treating public service as a public trust,” he said.
“Taxpayers should pay no more than necessary for your transportation.”
In the past, Price railed against government waste.
“Tough choices had to be made to identify and reduce spending within the department,” Price said in a statement earlier this year.
“Our goal is to … [try] to decrease the areas where there are either duplications, redundancies or waste … and get a larger return for the investment of the American taxpayer.”