Transportation Dept. Watchdog Says it Will Investigate Pete Buttigieg For Misuse of Taxpayer-Funded Flights
Pete Buttigieg will face an internal Department of Transportation watchdog audit after reports showed the embattled secretary used taxpayer funds for at least 18 flights across the U.S. and internationally. The Office of the Inspector General will conduct the audit at the request of Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
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“The guidance states that… Government aircraft shall be used only for official travel or on a space available basis, subject to certain policies and authorizations,” the inspector general’s office said. “We will conduct an audit to determine whether the Office of the Secretary complied with federal regulations, policies and procedures regarding executive travel on DOT aircraft.”
According to a report by Fox News, records from the government watchdog group Americans for Public Trust (APT) showed that Buttigieg had taken at least 18 flights using the private jet fleet of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). While the exact cost to taxpayers is unclear, The Washington Post reported that the FAA charges federal agencies roughly $5,000 per hour to use its private fleet.
Cabinet officials have previously been scrutinized for abusing taxpayer-funded jet flights, including during the Trump administration. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign after arranging 26 private jet flights, costing taxpayers roughly $1.2 million.
Buttigieg, a staunch advocate of green energy reform and climate change alarmist, has reportedly used private transport to fly to Nevada, Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, and New Hampshire to promote various initiatives.
Following the Fox report, Florida Senator Marco Rubio ordered an audit into the Transportation Secretary’s use of the FAA’s aircraft.
“American taxpayers deserve assurances that their tax dollars are not wasted by the government’s highest officials,” Rubio wrote in his December request. “I am committed to both holding Secretary Buttigieg accountable for any fraudulent use of government aircraft, and ensuring compliance with DOT policies and procedures. Therefore, I appreciate your prompt and thorough review of these issues.”
The calls were echoed by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who cited the Fox report and demanded answers from the inspector general about Buttigieg’s travel history and expenses. According to the report, more than 14 percent of Buttigieg’s air travel has been done using the FAA private fleet.
On Monday, Buttigieg responded, saying that he welcomed the inspector general’s audit,
Glad this will be reviewed independently so misleading narratives can be put to rest. Bottom line: I mostly fly on commercial flights, in economy class. And when I do use our agency’s aircraft, it’s usually a situation where doing so saves taxpayers money.”
Glad this will be reviewed independently so misleading narratives can be put to rest.
Bottom line: I mostly fly on commercial flights, in economy class. And when I do use our agency’s aircraft, it’s usually a situation where doing so saves taxpayer money. https://t.co/wUtBtjx9CT
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) February 27, 2023
Buttigieg’s tenure as Transportation Secretary is a frequent subject of controversy. In 2021, he came under fire for taking several weeks of parental leave amid a severe supply chain crisis. In 2022, he oversaw multiple airline crises, as thousands of cancellations left Americans stranded during July and December. He recently made headlines again after failing to address the East Palestine train derailment for almost two weeks.
According to the inspector general’s memo, the audit will also investigate the use of private government aircraft by former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
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