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Transportation Secretary Chao Flew on Taxpayer Dime Seven Times
According to a report by the Washington Post, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has flown on FAA-run plans, which are funded by the government, at least seven times this year during both domestic and international travel.
With the recent resignation of former Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price, the travel of government officials has come under greater scrutiny. In Chao’s case, however, it appears the use is more in line with what is commonly accepted among those who have held her position before.
Chao’s predecessor, Anthony Foxx, reportedly flew on FAA plans 116 times over his four-year term, according to a Chao spokesperson. Her office also indicated that Chao only flew on FAA-owned planes when flying commercially was not feasible because of scheduling conflicts or security concerns. In one instance, she had planned to fly commercially to Detroit but had to stay in Washington longer than she expected so she ended up having to use a FAA plane to make the trip.
The Transportation Secretary’s office was unable to provide an estimated cost of Chao’s plane usage, however, because the department is not required to reimburse the FAA for travel expenses.
Even still, the whole Price debacle has shed a greater light on the travel habits of cabinet members. While Chao may not have been overtly abusing the system, there are others, such as Price and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose government-funded travel has been a bit more egregious in its scope. It was so bad for Price that it cost him his job and Zinke isn’t out of the woods yet, although it doesn’t appear he’s under as much pressure.
Look for more reports on the airplane travel habits of cabinet members to hit the public consciousness in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see which ones have been taking liberties with taxpayer money.