10.24.19

Peters, Duckworth Reintroduce Good Government Legislation to Increase Transparency on Trump Administration Travel Spending

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) reintroduced legislation to safeguard taxpayer dollars and improve transparency and public disclosure of Administration travel spending. The Federal Travel Transparency Act would strengthen oversight of taxpayer-funded travel by making the air travel activities of cabinet secretaries and agency leaders available to the public online in an open, easily accessible format.

“Public service is a privilege, and federal officials traveling on the taxpayers’ dime owe it to the American people to ensure that they do so in the most cost-effective and responsible manner possible,” said Senator Peters. “I’m proud to sponsor this commonsense bill, which will shine a light on government travel spending and ensure that taxpayer funds are always used effectively and efficiently.”

“Every public servant has a responsibility to be a good steward of public dollars but it’s clear that Donald Trump and his Cabinet secretaries do not always see it that way,” said Duckworth. “When Trump Administration officials spend thousands of taxpayer dollars to charter a private or military plane or purchase a first-class ticket, they should—at the very least—be required to disclose and justify their expensive travel practices to the American people who are bankrolling it. By proactively shining a light on the travel practices of top Trump officials, our legislation would strengthen oversight and accountability of individuals who abuse their positions of power, and hopefully, shame a few Trump political appointees into avoiding such wasteful spending in the first place.”

Senator Peters and Duckworths’ good government legislation requires the government to publicly disclose, on a quarterly basis, the official air travel activities of agency leadership, including the duration, destination(s), travel party, justification and costs of official travel on an existing website such as USASpending.gov. This would allow the public to more easily track how taxpayer dollars are being spent following a number of high profile instances of excessive and lavish air travel by Trump Administration officials, including the use of private and military aircraft, and first-class fares. Those instances include:

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spent nearly $1 million to charter eight flights on U.S. military planes.
  • Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was found to have violated federal travel policy for mixing government travel with political events.
  • Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was forced to resign last year after it was reported that he spent more than $163,000 of taxpayer dollars on air travel in 2017, including $105,000 on first class seats that he insisted were necessary for his security. The EPA Inspector General later recommended that the federal government be reimbursed for $123,942 for costs associated with his first-class travel.
  • Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was also forced to resign after reports revealed he unnecessarily spent more than $1 million to travel on dozens of private and government planes instead of taking cheaper, widely available commercial alternatives.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has been committed to protecting taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud and abuse. Peters previously led his colleagues in pressing for investigations of lavish travel for multiple officials, including former HHS Secretary Tom Price and former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. He also helped introduced legislation to require agency officials to repay taxpayer dollars they have abused and wasted on excessive travel.

The Federal Travel Transparency Act has been endorsed by the Sunlight Foundation and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

###