HHS IG Is Now Investigating Tom Price’s Use Of Private Jets For Official Travel

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price is officially under investigation for his use of private jets for official business travel.

On Friday, HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson’s spokesperson told The Washington Post he is requesting documents related to Price’s travel and his staff’s justifications for picking private charter options over commercial flights.

The probe comes after Politico reported that Price’s taste for charter flights have cost taxpayers at least $300,000.

“OIG is conducting a review of Secretary Price’s Federal travel using chartered aircraft. The review focuses on whether the travel complied with Federal Travel Regulations, but may encompass other issues related to the travel,” Levinson’s spokesperson told The Washington Post. “We take this matter very seriously, and when questions arose about potentially inappropriate travel, we immediately began assessing the issue. I can confirm that work is underway and will be completed as soon as possible.”

Politico reported Tuesday that Price had taken at least five private charter flights to conduct official business up and down the East Coast last week. These reports prompted five Democratic congressional leaders to write Levinson, requesting an investigation into the matter.

The group, spearheaded by Rep. Frank Pauline (D-NJ), said they wanted to know who is paying for Price’s charter travel and how much it is costing tax payers. They said the flights appeared to violate policy that requires executive officials to use the most economical form of travel possible.

On Thursday, Politico said the agency secretary had used private planes for travel at least 24 times since May, at the cost of at least $300,000. On Friday, Levinson’s spokesperson confirmed the probe.

The inspector general isn’t the only group looking at the matter. The ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to Price Friday asking for documents related to all non-commercial flights he and any other agency officials have taken since assuming office in January.

Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-MD) letter cited Politico’s reports as well as former Congressional probes into use of private aircraft by senior officials as rationale for the investigation.

“If these recent reports are accurate, this would be a stunning and hypocritical breach of trust given the Trump administration at the same time is trying to take away health care from millions of Americans and is proposing to slash funding at HHS— negatively affecting critical programs to provide early-childhood education, fund Medicare for seniors and conduct medication research and development,” he wrote.

Cummings requested Price turn over the documents by Oct. 10.

Read the letter from Cummings below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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