Detroit News: Peters bill targets lavish spending by Trump administration officials

Washington — Legislation introduced by Sen. Gary Peters seeks to rein in wasteful travel spending, requiring senior agency officials to repay taxpayer money spent on items such as private flights, vacations or amusement.

Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, introduced the Executive Branch Waste and Fraud Recovery Act with three other Democrats: Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. 

The lawmakers say the bill is in response to growing ethical concerns about senior members of the Trump administration ignoring agency policy procedures related to travel spending. 

"Hardworking families in Michigan and across the country shouldn’t have to foot the bill for extravagant expenses Trump administration officials have racked up on everything from first-class travel to antique furniture," said Peters, ranking Democrat on the Federal Spending and Oversight Subcommittee. 

"This common-sense bill will help protect taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars from abuse and rein in the excessive, wasteful spending by numerous Trump administration officials."

The bill would apply to expenditures of $300,000 or less and provide due process for accused officials, including administrative hearings and judicial review of an agency's final determinations.

It's not the first time Peters has expressed dismay over a pattern of senior administration officials "wasting taxpayer money on extravagant goods and services," as he's said. 

In March, Peters pressed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to explain how it decided to spend more than $31,000 for a custom-made hardwood dining set for Secretary Ben Carson's office.

HUD initially defended the purchase but later indicated that Carson, a Detroit native, directed staff to cancel the order after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced an investigation into the matter.

Peters and the other lawmakers highlighted recent inspector general reports about questionable spending by top agency officials, including former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was found to have misspent $341,000 on charter and first-class flights. Price resigned in September 2017 over the scandal. 

Another Inspector General report from April highlighted a $12,375 chartered flight from Las Vegas to Montana in June 2017 by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke after a speech that "did not mention Zinke’s position as Interior Secretary or the activities of the DOI."

Treasury IG report determined that $800,000 worth of flights by Secretary Steven Mnuchin on military aircraft did not violate federal law but questioned the "sparse"   detail used to provide justification for using government aircraft.

By:  Melissa Nann Burke
Source: Detroit News