it’s a swamp thing

Chief of staff to over­see Cabi­net travel af­ter health sec­re­tary re­signs amid pri­vate plane scan­dal

Boston Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By BRIAN DOWL­ING — brian.dowl­ing@boston­her­ald.com

The White House is or­der­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion staffers to get ap­proval from Chief of Staff John Kelly be­fore hop­ping aboard a gov­ern­ment flight or char­tered plane to clamp down on the kind of pricey jet-set­ting that led to the res­ig­na­tion of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price.

White House bud­get chief Mick Mul­vaney told agency heads of the new guid­ance yes­ter­day in a memo that warned: “De­part­ments and agen­cies should rec­og­nize that we are pub­lic ser­vants. Every penny we spend comes from the tax­payer.

“We thus owe it to the tax­payer to work as hard man­ag­ing that money wisely as the tax­payer must do to earn it in the first place,” Mul­vaney wrote.

Trump said yes­ter­day he was “dis­ap­pointed” with Price’s tax­payer-funded trips on pri­vate char­tered jets, say­ing he didn’t “like the op­tics” of the spend­ing.

“I was dis­ap­pointed,” Trump told re­porters. “And you know this is an ad­min­is­tra­tion that saves hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars on rene­go­ti­at­ing things.”

Price took 26 pri­vate char­tered flights cost­ing $400,000 and used mil­i­tary air­craft for mul­ti­stop trips to Africa, Europe and Asia that cost more than $500,000, Politico re­ported.

In his res­ig­na­tion let­ter, Price said, “I re­gret that the re­cent events have cre­ated a dis­trac­tion” from the gov­ern­ment’s work on health care.

Trump’s for­mer cam­paign co-chair­man in Mas­sachusetts, Ge­off Diehl, a state rep run­ning for U.S. Se­nate, said push­ing Price out was a “smart move.”

“(Trump) al­ways preached on the cam­paign trail ac­count­abil­ity in Wash­ing­ton,” he said. “It cer­tainly proves he’s will­ing to hold any­one and everyone ac­count­able.”

The rev­e­la­tions of Price’s travel high­lights the need for more trans­parency on travel spend­ing, ac­cord­ing to Les­lie Paige of Cit­i­zens Against Gov­ern­ment Waste.

“Mr. Price’s sit­u­a­tion should be a cau­tion­ary tale for oth­ers,” Paige said. “But if we re­ally wanted to clamp down on abuses the first thing we should do is get some sun­shine on this and some in­for­ma­tion about what the process is.”

In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke, mean­while, is dis­miss­ing con­tro­versy over his use of char­ter flights as “a lit­tle BS over travel,” but says the Amer­i­can pub­lic has the right to know the costs of of­fi­cial trips.

Zinke yes­ter­day dis­closed that he has taken three char­ter flights since tak­ing of­fice in March, in­clud­ing a $12,375 late-night trip in June from Las Ve­gas to his home state of Mon­tana. Be­fore a speech to the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion yes­ter­day, Zinke said: “Tax­pay­ers ab­so­lutely have the right to know of­fi­cial travel costs. It’s com­mon sense ... and the heart of good gov­ern­ment.”

AP PHOTO

HIGH FLYER: Sec­re­tary of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Tom Price, seen Thurs­day at a White House event, re­signed yes­ter­day af­ter rack­ing up a mil­lion-dol­lar tab for char­ter and mil­i­tary flights this year.

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