BOSTON (CBS) –The first time a public official gets caught using taxpayer dollars to fund questionably-lavish business travel, it’s an isolated incident.
The second time, it’s an eyebrow-raising coincidence.
More than that, and you’ve got a troubling pattern on your hands.
That’s where the Trump administration finds itself Wednesday, after a three-day stretch where two more cabinet secretaries have been embroiled in controversy over their spending decisions.
Last year, profligate use of private jets cost Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price his job; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decision to spend more than $12,000 on a private jet ride from Las Vegas to his Montana hometown despite the availability of a $300 commercial flight caused a stir; and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s affinity for questionable office renovations generated unwanted headlines.
And now, Pruitt is at it again. An extensive Washington Post report documented dubious expenses on a trip to Italy last June for a few meetings, and CBS News reports Pruitt flew home on Emirates Airlines in what’s billed as the world’s most luxurious business class cabin. Pruitt claimed it was the only way to make it back to DC in time for a cabinet meeting.
Adding to the trip’s $43,000 price tag – a chartered military flight from Ohio to make his overseas connection out of New York. An EPA spokesman said: “due to security concerns, he has a blanket waiver to fly in first or business class.”
And Tuesday, Pruitt flew first-class from Washington to Boston on his way to meetings in New Hampshire, where he cited “incidents” of fellow passengers criticizing his EPA stewardship, noting: “We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment.”
Pruitt has company on the travel-spending hot seat. The inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs has found “serious dereliction” in a $122,000 trip to Europe last summer by VA Sec. David Shulkin and his wife that may have violated federal laws.
If you’ve got a tip about wasteful spending at any level of government, send it to me via email at email@example.com, or reach out on Twitter, @kelleratlarge, and we will look into it for a possible future story.