Saturday, September 30, 2017

HHS Secretary resigns: The price of Price

The NY Times reported on Friday that Health Secretary Tom Price Resigns After Drawing Ire for Chartered Flights

Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, resigned under pressure on Friday after racking up at least $400,000 in travel bills for chartered flights and undermining President Trump’s promise to drain the swamp of a corrupt and entitled capital.

Mr. Price’s job was on the line ever since the first of a string of reports by Politico on Sept. 19 about his extensive use of charter aircraft. Mr. Trump has fumed privately and publicly about Mr. Price’s actions, fearing that they undercut his promise to rid Washington of the sort of abuses that have soured the public on its political class. The president made clear on Friday that he also saw it as undermining his promise to save the government money, citing efforts to renegotiate contracts.

In a bid to assuage Mr. Trump, the secretary offered on Thursday to reimburse the government $51,887 of the $400,000 spent, which he said represented the cost of his own seat on the trips. But it was clear that was not enough to save his job.

That offer, in itself, is evidence that Price was still scamming the tax payers. He didn’t cost us just the cost of his seat, he cost us all the things that make an airplane fly worth thousands of dollars per hour.

Moreover, the latest word covered by Rachel Maddow last night is that he chartered US military aircraft for overseas junkets estimated to cost around $500,000. All told, Price’s air expenses cost the tax payer about a million dollars. So Price has offered compensation worth about 5 cents on the dollar.

That’s not enough. Price owes America a million bucks. Will Jeff Sessions go after it?

Steve Benen comments on what led to the resignation The Price is Wrong: Scandal-plagued HHS secretary resigns. Politico.com first reported on Price’s jet travels and has covered the unfolding parts of the story, for example, about Price’s private-jet travels included visits with colleagues, lunch with son.
The HHS secretary sometimes combined official travel and meetings with friends and family.

Huffington Post also reports Tom Price Resigns As Health And Human Services Secretary.
He cost taxpayers over $1 million by using private planes for official travel.

Politico first reported that Price had frequently chartered private jets to travel around the country, breaking a long-standing precedent from his predecessors who often flew commercial. The outlet identified dozens of private flights, costing more than $400,000, since May. Just days later, Politico also reported that Price had flown to Africa, Europe and Asia this spring on military aircraft at a cost of more than $500,000.

Price’s wife, Betty, traveled with him on the military plane while other people in his delegation flew commercial, according to the latest report. A HHS spokeswoman said Price had reimbursed the agency for his wife’s travel.

… [Price[ said he would write a check for nearly $52,000, noting taxpayers “won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.” However, those claims came under fire after they seemed to imply that Price wouldn’t reimburse taxpayers for the total costs of the flights, which included charges for fuel, taxes and additional fees.

Price’s tenure in the Trump administration began much as it ended: mired in controversy.

The former congressman’s personal financial activity came under scrutiny during his January confirmation process, amid reports that he had regularly traded health industry stocks while sitting on the House Ways and Means Committee, in potential violation of a 2012 law banning insider trading in Congress. Price was specifically accused of lying to senators in sworn testimony about buying discounted stock in an Australian biotech company in 2016, after receiving a tip from a colleague who sat on the company’s board. Price then backed legislation that could have sped up the approval process for the company’s medical device technology.

Price’s departure comes as several other members of the Trump administration are under fire for their proclivity for using private jets. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have all used such aircraft at taxpayer’s expense.

Trump promised to “drain the swamp.” Actually, he hired the swamp.

Rachel Maddow summarized the scandal in her show Thursday night. Here’s the video clip.

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