Let's talk about ole Pete's use of private jets

Many people were probably surprised when Joe Biden appointed “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg as the Secretary of Transportation, given his total lack of experience in such matters. At this point, I’m not entirely sure that he understood the meaning of his role. 

The Transportation Department deals with travel, obviously, so perhaps Buttigieg thought that meant he should spend his time traveling. He’s certainly done quite a bit of that, and as Fox News is reporting this week, many of his trips have been taken using taxpayer-funded private jets managed by the FAA. 

Given the history of expensive travel by officials on the taxpayers’ dime, this should have produced some outrage in the press, particularly at a time when so many Americans can’t even afford an economy-class ticket once they finish paying for their groceries, filling up their gas tanks, and watching the value of their remaining dollars plummet. And yet, this story is barely making a ripple in the media pond.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, an advocate of increased government action to curb carbon emissions, has taken at least 18 flights using taxpayer-funded private jets since taking office, Fox News Digital has learned.

Buttigieg has traveled across the country — visiting Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire, among other states — and out of the country using a private jet fleet managed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to flight tracking data reviewed by Fox News Digital. The flight records align with Buttigieg’s schedule of external and public engagements obtained by government watchdog group Americans for Public Trust (APT).

Buttigieg’s predecessor, Elaine Chao, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, faced criticism for using the same jets on seven occasions in 2017, costing taxpayers nearly $94,000, Politico reported at the time.

Eighteen private jet trips in less than two years adds up to a lot of money. And as the linked report reminds us, officials in other administrations have gotten into trouble for doing similar things. Trump’s first Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, was roundly criticized for taking only seven private jet trips. Trump’s HHS Secretary, Tom Price, was forced to resign after taking more than two dozen such flights. But we don’t seem to be hearing much about Mayor Pete’s pricey lifestyle except in conservative outlets.

The problem with enforcing prohibitions on private jet usage is that the laws regarding such expenditures are very vague, probably intentionally. Restrictions were placed on private jet usage when the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act was passed in 2007, but that only applies to members of Congress and their staff.

In 2017, when the press was raising an uproar over Trump officials’ travel expenses, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney published a statement on the subject. He wrote, “Government-owned, rented, leased or chartered aircraft should not be used for travel by government employees, except with specific justification. Accordingly, with few exceptions, the commercial air system used by millions of Americans every day is appropriate, even for very senior officials.”

Unfortunately, that was a published opinion from the Office of Management and Budget, not a law. And even in the opinion, Mulvaney included some vague caveats such as “except with specific justification” and “with few exceptions.” In the end, nobody is going to rein in Buttigieg’s travel unless Joe Biden does it himself. And do you honestly think that Biden will utter a word to chastise the “historic, first openly-gay cabinet member?”

At 7:20 eastern this morning, Don Lemon and his crew on CNN interviewed Buttigieg so I unmuted the television to hear what he might have to say for himself. Sadly, his views remain a mystery because the CNN team only asked him about the President’s anticipated signing of the same-sex marriage bill today and fawned over Mayor Pete, his husband, and their twins. (There isn’t a clip of the interview available online yet but you can probably find it later today.)

So despite the fact that Tom Price was forced to resign for the same thing, we’re in a different era now that the Democrats control the White House. You can expect this story to disappear down the memory hole and Mayor Pete will likely continue to fly in luxury while you pay for his travel expenses and wait for hours in the TSA line. God bless America.

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