What a surprise that many members of President Trump’s not-a-swamp cabinet have penchants for flying private — because, my god, why fly amongst the riffraff on commercial if the federal government is paying? On Tuesday Politico reported that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price chartered five private flights last week along the East Coast to the tune of $60,000. That report itself is disturbing, but on Wednesday Politico followed up with a more detailed exposé of Price’s travel.
Since May, Price has chartered at least 24 private flights, Politico reported after reviewing internal HHS documents and speaking to the department’s employees. The travel cost taxpayers an estimated $300,000 — a steep bill coming from a former congressman who has proposed cutting $1 trillion from Medicaid and has sharply criticized wasteful spending.
If there was one representative example of Price’s superfluous and elitist preferred method of travel, it would be this:
Price took a Learjet-60 from San Diego to the Aspen Ideas Festival — a glamorous conference at the Colorado resort town — that arrived at 3:33 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, June 24, nearly 19 hours before his scheduled panel. That flight likely cost more than $7,100, according to one charter jet agency estimate.
While Price’s trip to Aspen was expensive, its price tag was comparably low to his other chartered flights — one of which spanned five states and cost $50,420.
Price’s private travel, which Politico described as “the norm,” in September consisted of flights between DC, Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, where visited community health care centers to discuss the opioid epidemic. His Sept. 15 chartered flight between Washington Dulles and Philadelphia cost taxpayers an estimated $25,000 — while a United flight that departed five minutes earlier than his private flight cost a maximum of $725.
Charmaine Yoest, HHS spokeswoman, said Price’s travel was deducted from the department’s budget — a budget that President Trump proposed cutting by 18% or $15.8 billion.
The secretary’s travel is all the more absurd given his 2009 excoriation of congress for flying on private jets at taxpayers’ expense. “This is an example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok in congress right now,” he said on CNBC at the time.
Shortly after Politico’s first report was published on Wednesday, five Democratic congressman signed a letter demanding an investigation into Price’s travel. “American taxpayers deserve assurances that their tax dollars are not wasted by the government’s highest officials,” the letter said. “We are committed to holding Secretary Price to his stated pledges to reduce waste throughout the Department.”