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ethics

Politico: Tom Price's taxpayer-funded private-jet travels mixed business with pleasure

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has twice used a private jet, paid for with taxpayer funds, to travel to destinations where he owns property, Politico reports.

The HHS inspector general is investigating Price's use of chartered aircraft. Price's aides are adamant that he never violated federal travel regulations stipulating that officials are allowed to charter planes only if "no scheduled commercial airline service is reasonably available ... to fulfill your agency's travel requirement." Politico found that since May, Price has taken at least 26 flights on corporate jets, and in several cases, there were commercial flights available to his destinations.

Politico focused on two sparsely scheduled trips, which an HHS official said were both official government business and paid for by the department. A June 6 round-trip chartered flight to Nashville, half an hour each way, cost $17,760, according to the federal contract. Politico found that there were two commercial flights that had nearly the same exact timelines; with government discounts, the tickets would have cost between $102 and $333 round trip. In Nashville, where Price owns a condo, he toured a medicine dispensary for an hour, then had a long lunch with his son, before attending a health summit organized by a friend and major Republican donor. Price gave a 20-minute speech, then left, Politico reports.

Price arrived at St. Simons Island 40 hours before he appeared at a medical conference, Politico reports, and there was a commercial flight he could have taken, via Atlanta, to get to St. Simons Island from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he had given a speech to a vaccine manufacturer. "To use a charter flight on something that combines personal and government business, I think it's highly unprofessional and really inappropriate," Richard Painter, the top ethics official for former President George W. Bush, told Politico. Read more about Price's travels and the cost to taxpayers at Politico.