Speed Reads

Public service

HHS Secretary Tom Price has flown a private jet for work trips 5 times in the last week alone

From Sept. 13 to Sept. 15, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price flew a charter jet on five separate flights to Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania for HHS business, and current and former HHS staffers say he's been flying on private jets for months, Politico reports. Price's travel in those three days cost somebody at least $60,000, charter jet companies said, and HHS spokespeople declined to address who footed the bills. The last two HHS secretaries, Sylvia Matthews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, flew only commercial inside the continental United States, and often coach. "Price, a frequent critic of federal spending who has been developing a plan for department-wide cost savings, declined to comment," Politico notes, a bit archly.

All three organizations Price traveled to address — IT firm athenahealth and Goodwin Community Health Center in New Hampshire and Mirmont Treatment Center outside Philadelphia — said they did not pay for Price's travel. "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."

Politico did some digging, and found commercial flights from D.C. to the places Price traveled at around the time he flew, for much less money. The Wall Street Journal's Tim Hanrahan rounded up some options for the Washington-Philadelphia leg, a 135-mile trip that cost $25,000 on Price's chartered plane.

Price, a millionaire former orthopedic surgeon and congressman from Georgia, didn't always think private-jet travel was in the best interest of taxpayers, as he showed in this CNBC interview of himself he posted in 2009. (Also, he apparently used to think Congress should read bills before voting on them.)

President Trump's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are under investigation by their respective departments' inspector generals for their frequent travel or use of government planes. You can read more about Price's travel at Politico.