Attorney General Michael Mukasey has taken personal trips on government jets almost every weekend since he took office less than a year ago at a cost to taxpayers of more than $155,800, Justice Department and Federal Aviation Administration travel records show.
He took so many trips to his home in New York on FAA, FBI or Drug Enforcement Administration planes that he was outside Washington a third or more of February, May, July, August and September. From November 2007 to September 2008, he traveled to New York 45 times, according to the records.
MEETING A REQUIREMENT
Mukasey, unlike most other Cabinet members, is required to fly on government planes for security reasons, and he often worked from home, the Justice Department officials said.
He traveled with his wife on 17 of the trips, and eight of them were with four or five other relatives. Most of the trips with his wife and other relatives were one-way between New York and Washington. FAA records show that his adult son, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren have flown with him.
IT'S BY THE BOOK
Mukasey reimbursed the government a total of $15,246 for all of his trips, based on round-trip coach fares, as he's required to do by government travel regulations. However, the cost of operating the Gulfstream G5s, Cessna Citations and de Havilland Dash 8-100s that he uses is tens of thousands of dollars more. For example, he reimbursed the Justice Department $128.80 for a round-trip ticket to New York. The actual cost to the government, said the Justice Department: $4,021.32.
In February, Mukasey flew to Orlando, Fla., with his wife and four other relatives. Under travel regulations, officials who are required to travel by government aircraft are permitted to take relatives with them as long as they reimburse the taxpayers for the equivalent coach fare, which Mukasey did, officials said. For that trip, he paid $2,173. The actual cost to the government, the department said: $12,250.
OUTPACING HIS PEERS?
Mukasey's personal trips appear to outpace those of other officials who are required to travel on government jets. During the same time period, Defense Secretary Robert Gates took fewer than six personal trips, and he also reimbursed the government at coach fares. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff didn't appear to have taken any personal trips in the last fiscal year, according to FAA records.
In addition, the government pilot sometimes returned to Washington without passengers after dropping off the attorney general. When Mukasey was ready to return to Washington, the pilot flew an empty plane back to New York.
MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE