Wednesday Commentary: Government Travel

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. – Potter Stewart

You’ve probably heard about the members of the Trump Administration having problems with travel. Some are acting like a teenager with a new car and daddy’s credit card. So far, there are four who are under scrutiny for their travel.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned. There should be more resignations because the folks who are screwing up all know better.

The latest mess deals with the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, who reportedly cruised the Thames, took in sight-seeing at Westminster Abbey, and watched a Wimbledon tennis match during a 10-day European trip with his wife. The trip was half business, half pleasure. (Fortune)

Montana’s own Ryan Zinke, who is now the Department of Interior Secretary, is one of the four cabinet members who are having some problems with travel.

The problem with Zinke is he does not seem to understand he has a problem. Zinke called the talk about his excessive use of private planes on taxpayer’s dime “a little B.S.”

When I heard that, my first thought was, “You’re a little too arrogant there, grasshopper.”

One Zinke flight cost taxpayers $12,375 to fly from Las Vegas to Whitefish, Montana.

But this part really struck me as odd. Zinke spoke to the Heritage Foundation and had this to say:

“All this travel was done only after department officials determined no other flights were available,” Zinke told the audience at Heritage. “Every time I travel, I submit travel plans to the department, who determines line by line that I follow the law. And I follow the law.”

Well, Mr. Secretary, you need new officials who won’t approve $12,000 flights because the big guy at the top wants to fly home. You need someone who has the guts to say, “No, this is not a good way to spend taxpayer money.”

You could probably use a new person to run your schedule, too, – someone who can say that you can fly home for $900 less the next day.

On Monday we learned that the Department of Interior Inspector General (IG) was looking into Zinke’s travels. This is a joke. IGs are weak. They are hardly independent. The IG is a member of the organization they are charged with investigating. The Feds need to do an independent investigation.

The real “B.S.” in this travel mess is that the officials involved do not seem to understand that they did nothing wrong. To me, that means they are the wrong people for the job.