Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price used government-funded private jets to visit an island where he owns property and to have lunch with his son, according to a report from Politico. Price has spent at least $400,000 on at least 24 chartered jets to travel to not-so-remote destinations such as Philadelphia and Nashville.
“This is Secretary Price, getting outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people,” Charmaine Yoest, Price’s assistant secretary for public affairs, told The Washington Post last week. “Wasting four hours in an airport and having the secretary cancel his event is not a good use of taxpayer money.”
But Politico has found that not all of Price's travels were for official business. He took a trip using a taxpayer-funded jet to St. Simons Island in Georgia where he owns property, for example. He also mixed business with pleasure on a visit to Nashville, Tennessee, where he toured a medicine dispensary and also had lunch with his son, an HHS official confirmed to Politico.
Politico reported that commercial airline tickets with government discounts would have cost between $102 and $333 per person roundtrip between Washington and Nashville, according to the U.S. General Services Administration. According to the White House, Price's travel was approved under the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services. That approval is now under review, the Post reported.
Price made an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” to address the controversy. He said he would stop chartering planes for official travel until that review was complete.
“We’ve heard the criticism. We’ve heard the concerns, and we take that very seriously and have taken it to heart,” he said.