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Friday, September 22, 2017


If anyone knows charters, it's Betsy DeVos

by Tom Sullivan

Learjet 60 by Igors Cernovs via Creative Commons.

Drain the swamp?

That was the promise. Maybe not as prominent as "build the wall" and "lock her up," but that was one of the president's campaign themes: to "drain the swamp" that is Washington, D.C. Then he took office and began constructing a nicer one. (Your're gonna love it! Believe me.)

Politico has the latest on the president's bigger, more beautiful swamp:

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has taken at least 24 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers’ expense since early May, according to people with knowledge of his travel plans and a review of HHS documents.

The frequency of the trips underscores how private travel has become the norm — rather than the exception — for the Georgia Republican during his tenure atop the federal health agency, which began in February. The cost of the trips identified by POLITICO exceeds $300,000, according to a review of federal contracts and similar trip itineraries.

Price’s use of private jets represents a sharp departure from his two immediate predecessors, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially in the continental United States. HHS officials have said Price uses private jets only when commercial travel is not feasible.
His office claims that Price's recent flurry of private flights reflects his intense schedule in response to hurricane relief in Texas and Florida.

That's not what Politico's review reveals. The report includes, among others, the Learjet-60 Price chartered on a Saturday in June to take him from San Diego to the tony Aspen Ideas Festival. The plane dropped Price in Aspen 19 hours ahead of his scheduled panel at a cost to taxpayers of $7,100.

The Washington Post explains the reason the 12-year veteran of Congress books private charters is he was once delayed four hours in an airport, poor thing:
“This is Secretary Price, getting outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people,” said Charmaine Yoest, his assistant secretary for public affairs. “Wasting four hours in an airport and having the secretary cancel his event is not a good use of taxpayer money.”
In a companion piece, Politico reports that charter school advocate, billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, uses her personal jet for travel rather than commercial jets and private charters. At no expense to the taxpayer:
"Secretary DeVos travels on personally-owned aircraft, accompanied by her security detail and whenever possible, additional support staff, at zero cost to U.S. taxpayers," said spokeswoman Liz Hill in an email.

"The secretary neither seeks, nor accepts, any reimbursement for her flights, nor for any additional official travel-related expenses, such as lodging and per diem, even though she is entitled to such reimbursement under government travel regulations," Hill said.

DeVos is also planning to donate her government salary to charity.
Now, I've never been a fan of the charter schools movement or of Betsy DeVos. And perhaps Price simply doesn't have pockets as deep as hers. But having spent so much of her focus on public education, at least she has more of a sense for limited public resources than Price (or her boss) seems to.

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