What’s the deal with Trump administration officials and private jets, huh? And why are the little bags of peanuts so hard to open? Politico reported yesterday that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price managed to rack up at least $60,000 worth of travel on chartered private jets last week, even though commercial flights (not to mention trains and automobiles) would have worked just as well for far less money for at least one of his trips, a jaunt from Washington DC to Philadelphia.
The story, by Dan Diamond and Rachana Pradhan, details just a single week of Price’s pricey travels by chartered jet, and notes that sources suggest it’s his preferred form of travel, at least when a gilded sedan chair carried by Nubian eunuchs isn’t available:
Current and former staffers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say Price has been taking private jets to travel domestically for months.
The official word from HHS spokespeople was a bit more opaque; while they “declined to confirm details of the flights or respond to questions about who paid for them,” an HHS spokesperson did say,
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 […] When commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements, charter aircraft can be used for official travel.
Diamond and Pradhan were able to confirm last week’s flights weren’t gifts from Corporate Persons, so they must have been on the taxpayer dime (about a quarter of a million dimes for that trip to Philly):
All three organizations that hosted Price last week — the Massachusetts-based health IT firm athenahealth, Goodwin Community Health Center in New Hampshire and the Mirmont Treatment Center in Pennsylvania — told POLITICO they did not pay for his flights or other travel costs.
As for that stuff about only taking a charter when a commercial flight isn’t feasible, that didn’t hold up so well in the face of a crack investigative team with internet access and a phone: Turns out that for the shortest of Price’s several trips, the DC-to-Philadelphia hop,
there was a commercial flight that departed at roughly the same time: Price’s charter left Dulles at 8:27 a.m., and a United Airlines flight departed for Philadelphia at 8:22 a.m., according to airport records.
The costs of a round-trip ticket on those flights were between $447 to $725 per person on United, and that’s for a same-day flight — Price could have gotten a cheaper seat if he’d booked in advance or gotten a government discount. Just to be diligent (and yes, to rub it in maybe), Diamond and Pradhan also confirmed that flights from Reagan National and Baltimore Washington International were also available at around the same cost. And for that matter there’s Amtrak (four trains every morning, $72 a seat). Or, even two or three government SUVs would run about $90 bucks per vehicle for a round trip (including tolls), though the drive time would be a sluggish 2 1/2 hours.
Instead, Price needed that jet, because Kellyanne Conway went along and who wants to sit right next to her in an SUV for a couple hours?
Politico details that Price took other, longer trips, too, on chartered private jets last week as well: a total of five point-to-point flights, at a total charter cost of around $60,000.
For comparison purposes, Diamond and Pradhan talked to former HHS officials who worked with Barack Obama’s two HHS secretaries, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius; those aides said the boss ladies almost always took commercial flights.
Staff for Burwell and Sebelius said booking even a single charter flight was, in the words of one, a “non-starter” within the department. For example, for last year’s Obamacare enrollment kick-off, HHS staff had planned a multi-city tour for Burwell to urge Americans to sign up for coverage. The effort, which would have required charter aircraft, was ultimately scrapped because of its estimated $60,000 cost.
“We were worried about the optics and the cost to taxpayers,” said one former staffer involved in the planning.
Well yeah, but her boss was a Kenyan socialist, so the administration had to worry about stuff like “optics.”
When Tom Price was a mere inside-trading member of Congress, he was really tough on wasteful government spending, as CNBC notes; in 2009, Price pared down a Democratic budget request to buy the government eight passenger jets for $550 million, to be used on various official travel needs. He wasn’t even satisfied when he cut that request in half:
“I think we’ve made it halfway of where we ought to and that is cut it from eight to four jets,” Price said at the time. “Now we need to cut it from four jets to zero jets. This is just another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok in Congress right now.”
Mind you, Tom Price has his defenders, who we’re certain would have been just as understanding of similar travel by Obama administration people if they’d done it (which they didn’t). Great American Patriot Erick Erickson ran a blog post this morning with the not-at-all hyperbolic headline “Liberals Are Upset Tom Price Has Made It Challenging to Try to Kill Him.” Erick, son of Erick, remembers that a crazed Bernie Sanders supporter tried to kill a bunch of Republicans at a baseball practice, and also there’s Antifa, so all liberals are would-be murderers or at least aggravated assaulters. So it’s pure hypocrisy for liberals to suggest it’s out of line for Price to take a private jet, which is literally saving his life:
maybe he said all Americans should have affordable healthcare so their babies don’t die of treatable illnesses. One of those.
Tom Price is in charge of the cabinet position that oversees Obamacare. Democrat members of Congress say Tom Price and his Republican colleagues would kill you and your children.
And you want him walking through a public airport? His presence not only puts his own safety at risk, but ensures inconvenience and possible safety issues for others […]
Every single Cabinet secretary should be flying private given Antifa, the so called Resistance, and rise of violent leftwing nutters. Honestly, I assumed they already did and was surprised to learn most didn’t.
But Tom Price in particular, given people like James Hodgkinson [the baseball practice shooter — Ed.] and Jimmy Kimmel, should particularly stay out airports.
Funny thing, though: Back in 2008, Erickson lied through his teeth about Nancy Pelosi’s travel, falsely claiming she’d insisted on being “granted a Boeing 757 to fly her friends, family, and staff with her back and forth to San Francisco.” That rumor — which didn’t originate with Erickson but which he happily repeated — was debunked by FactCheck.org; turns out Pelosi had requested no such thing, but that when she became speaker in 2007, House sergeant-at-arms Bill Livingoodhad inquired whether the business jet used by the previous speaker, Dennis Hastert, would have the range needed to fly nonstop from DC to San Francisco. The Pentagon said the smaller jet used by Hastert was generally able to make the trip nonstop, and Pelosi said she was happy to use whatever was available. Oh, but then the rumors took off, and circled the world before Pelosi could fling a shoe at them.