Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao flew on FAA planes rather than commercial flights on seven occasions between January and August 2017.— POLITICO (@politico) September 19, 2018
Taxpayers foot the bill – an estimated $93,977.84.https://t.co/smmTDxxNfK
Newly released records show Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao flew on Federal Aviation Administration planes rather than commercial flights between January and August 2017, racking up a cost of $93,977.84.
The most expensive of Chao’s flights started on June 18, 2017, when she flew on FAA’s Gulfstream from New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport to attend the Paris Air Show, a significant event in the aviation industry. She was accompanied to the event by her special assistant Jon Furman, Department of Transport’s director of operations Todd Inman, senior adviser for strategic communications Laura Genero, director of public affairs Marianne McInerney and another department employee.
The group then flew to Sardinia to attend the G-7 summit, then refueled at Ireland's Shannon Airport and went back to Washington, D.C. on June 23, 2017. The entire trip cost around $68,892.
Chao and her staff flew in an FAA Cessna for a round-trip between Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Beaumont, Texas in early March for an estimated cost of $5,721.
The Transportation Secretary also used the FAA’s Gulfstream to being several Congress members, including House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and four other employees to Canada to tour the country’s privatized air traffic control system.
Altogether, the trip cost an estimated $8,646, according to the document.
Chao’s last flight on the FAA planes on Aug 29. 2017 was a round-trip between Washington and South Bend, Ind. for a toll road ribbon cutting ceremony. The estimated cost of the use of the plane was $2,981.
According to the cost-justification material for the flight and a DOT’s spokeswoman, it was necessary for Chao to fly on FAA’s because of security reasons, which including storing weapons onboard, National Transportation Safety Board accident investigations and ensuring DOT remained in communication with Chao at all times. In other instances, Chao used FAA to reach her scheduled meeting on time, something that commercial flights would not have allowed her to attend.
The revelation came amidst continued questions surrounding the cost of travel of the Trump administration’s senior officials.
In 2017, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price faced intense scrutiny and was forced to resign after he accrued $1.2 million for using private and military jets.
In March, it was revealed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wasted almost $1 million of taxpayer money on travel between spring and fall of 2017. According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Mnuchin “billed taxpayers for the most expensive flight options available at every turn, appearing to never even consider flying commercial as his predecessors did.”
Former EPA head Scott Pruitt spent $3 million on security and travel expenses, including $120,000 trip to Italy and non-official vacations to Disneyland, the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, and his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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