Ask your House Rep to support H.R. 3876, the SWAMP FLIERS act, which would prohibit spending federal funds on private aircraft for any senior political appointee who’s traveling for official government business.
California House Rep Ted Lieu introduced the bill in September 2017 after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned for spending more than $1 million in taxpayer money on private aircraft travel while doing business for the government.
Private jets, military helicopters, and the like are expensive to run–far, far more expensive than commercial flights. While there are situations where private and military aircraft is the only option available to get the job done, those situations are rare. According to CNN, two secretaries of the interior who served the Obama administration spent $971,000 on non-commercial travel over the course of seven years.
Secretaries of the interior probably have greater need for private and/or military travel options than other cabinet secretaries. The job can require them to go to the off-roadiest of off-road spots–places that American Airlines can’t reach.
Current Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has been less strict with our money than his immediate predecessors. He racked up more than $72,000 in noncommercial travel expenses between March and October 2017. The departure of Price doesn’t appear to have chastened Zinke. As of early October, the inspector general of the department of the interior had opened an investigation into Zinke’s questionable trips.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin triggered a department-level investigation after an Instagram post by his wife raised concern. Between March and October, Mnuchin took seven trips at taxpayers’ expense, at a cost of more than $800,000. The seven were found to be legal, but investigators dinged Mnuchin for the tenuous justifications that he offered for them. It also came out that Mnuchin had requested the use of a military plane for his honeymoon. (Officials turned him down.)
EPA head Scott Pruitt is yet another Trump cabinet member who has taken non-commercial flights in 2017. He took at least four trips between February and September at a cost of $58,000. The department did provide documents that showed that its Office of General Counsel had authorized the travel. In August, the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General announced it would look into Pruitt’s trips to his home state of Oklahoma.
We shouldn’t have to pass a law that stops senior administration appointees from choosing private and military flights when less expensive commercial options are available, but the actions of Price, Zinke, Mnuchin, and Pruitt shows that we do. Lieu’s bill would codify what should be common sense, and what was common sense before Trump was elected.
Lieu’s bill, dubbed the Stop Waste and Misuse by Presidential Flyers Landing Yet Evading Rules and Standards (SWAMP FLIERS), would require affected officials to provide proof that no commercial flight options were available. The bill has a low chance of passage. Since its introduction on September 28, 2017, it hasn’t moved along, and GovTrack’s page cites a Skopos Labs estimate that it has a two percent chance of passage.
But given the nonsense that those three former and current cabinet members got up to in 2017, it seems like a good idea to support this bill.
Sample script: “Dear House Rep (Lastname), I am (Firstname Lastname from town, zip code). I’d like you to support H.R. 3876, the SWAMP FLIERS Act. It was introduced by California House Rep Ted Lieu in September 2017, and it would outlaw using federal funds for official travel by senior political appointees on private aircraft and for other purposes.
See the GovTrack page on H.R. 3876:
Read Rep. Lieu’s September 28, 2017 statement about the bill:
Read a story from The Hill about the introduction of H.R. 3876:
Read about Price’s resignation and the scandal that led to it:
Read the CNN story on the tab for non-commercial travel for interior secretaries under Obama, which includes the 2017 figures for Zinke’s private travel:
Read about Zinke’s problematic travels, which have led to an investigation:
Read about Steve Mnuchin’s non-commercial 2017 travel, which prompted an internal investigation that deemed the trips legal:
Read about the trips that Pruitt took in 2017: