Under the lax ethical standards President Donald Trump brought to the White House, rampant conflicts of interest are treated with casual indifference. This disregard has sent a message to his administration that blurring lines — between public and private, right and wrong — will be not just tolerated but defended. At least one Cabinet member appears to have taken the message to heart.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took five chartered flights last week, including one to a conference at a resort in Maine. Two of the flights — round-trip from Washington to Philadelphia — probably cost about $25,000, or roughly $24,750 more than the cost of an Amtrak ticket, for a trip that would have taken roughly the same amount of time. Total costs for the five flights are estimated to be at least $60,000.
The department has yet to reveal how many times Price has flown by charter since being sworn into office. There would be no problem were he picking up the tab himself, as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reportedly does. But Cabinet secretaries — other than for the Defense and State departments, who often ride in military planes — typically fly commercial. Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for charters except in emergency situations.
Democrats have called for the agency’s inspector general to conduct an investigation, which it should, quickly.
Unless Trump draws bright lines around the use of government resources, and reprimands those who fail to steer clear of them, more — and more serious — abuses will occur.
FROM A BLOOMBERG VIEW EDITORIAL