The Department of Transportation’s inspector general said Monday that it is auditing Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s use of Federal Aviation Administration planes for conducting official trips.
The Washington Post, citing Buttigieg’s office, reported that of the 18 flights that Buttigieg has taken on private FAA planes, only one was more expensive than flying commercial.
“Glad this will be reviewed independently so misleading narratives can be put to rest,” Buttigieg claimed. “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.”
The inspector general’s audit comes after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for action to be taken in December following a Fox News story that revealed his use of the taxpayer-funded private jets.
Rubio wrote in part:
Pursuant to federal travel regulations, “[b]ecause the taxpayers should pay no more than necessary for your transportation, generally you may travel on Government aircraft only when a Government aircraft is the most cost-effective mode of travel.” The definition of “Government aircraft” includes chartered aircraft. DOT’s own Travel Order and Manual further states that “DOT employees are required to exercise the same care in incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise if traveling on personal business when making official travel arrangements, and therefore, should consider the least expensive class of travel that meets the needs of the agency’s mission.” Given these requirements, it is unclear why Secretary Buttigieg would require such costly travel in these instances when more economical options were reportedly available.
Rubio added that he was committed to holding Buttigieg and the department accountable for “any fraudulent use of government aircraft, and ensuring compliance with DOT policies and procedures.”
The inspector general’s office said that it was reviewing travel dating back to January 31, 2017, when Elaine Chao was sworn in as the department’s secretary during the Trump administration.
The audit in Buttigieg comes as he has faced increased criticism over his response, or lack thereof, to the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Buttigieg tried to downplay the criticism during an interview over the weekend on MSNBC.
“There has been so much information, and frankly so much misinformation thrown at this community and thrown at this situation that a lot them are asking who they can even trust,” Buttigieg claimed. “It’s so important to continue to make sure that they can get good, accurate information about the things they care about most, which isn’t national politics or who looks good or who looks bad, it’s continuing to know that their air, water, and soil are going to be safe, that their homes are going to be safe.”
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