Categories for Ethics

11,657. 11/22/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS/TRUMP BUSINESS: “Bottles from Trump Winery have been on sale at a gift shop in Shenandoah National Park, located about two hours from Washington, D.C.
Ethics watchdogs have slammed President Donald Trump for apparent conflicts of interest, particularly opportunities to make money from his public position. But the park and store management say that’s not the case here.
The store is in the national park but is managed by a private company, as many are, said National Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum…
Hong said the Shenandoah shops have in the past carried wines from Kluge Estate, which Trump bought in 2011 and rebranded.
Federal records show Delaware North operates facilities at national parks from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite. The company won a 10-year contract in 2013 to manage retail shops, restaurants, lodging, horseback riding, and shower and laundry facilities at Shenandoah.
The Trump Winery offering at Shenandoah came to light when an environmental trade publication, E&E News, was tipped off by an employee at the Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit that has protested and sued the Trump administration over its handling of the environment.”

-Gregory Wallace, “National Park Service doesn’t object to sale of Trump wine at park,” CNN Politics, CNN.com, Nov. 22, 2017 12:56pm

11,656. 11/22/2017

ETHICS/KELLYANNE CONWAY/LEGAL: “A prominent government ethics expert has filed a complaint against White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, alleging that she violated federal law Monday [11-20-17] by appearing to advocate against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s Democratic opponent.
Walter Shaub, who resigned in July as the head of the Office of Government Ethics, said on Twitter Wednesday that he lodged a complaint claiming that the top aide to President Donald Trump ran afoul of the Hatch Act when she discouraged Alabamans from voting for the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones…
During an interview earlier this week on ‘Fox and Friends,’ Conway called Jones ‘weak on crime,’ ‘weak on borders,’ and ‘terrible for property owners.’ Pressed on whether she was endorsing Moore, she never answered directly but suggested his vote was needed to advance Trump administration priorities…
White House spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the complaint.”

-Josh Gerstein, “Legal complaint filed over Kellyanne Conway’s comments on Roy Moore race,” Politico, Nov. 22, 2017 12:26pm

11,652. 11/22/2017

ETHICS/LEGAL/POLITICAL FIGURES/WOMEN: “Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.) acknowledged he settled a wrongful-dismissal claim in 2015 involving a former female employee, but denied allegations of sexual harassment.
Mr. Conyers on Tuesday [11-21-17] said he settled the complaint to avoid litigation. He added he would cooperate with any further investigation in the House. News of the settlement and that it was related to a sexual-harassment claim surfaced Monday…
Tuesday afternoon, the House Ethics Committee announced it had ‘begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding these allegations.’ The committee keeps its investigations confidential and said it won’t make further public statements ‘pending completion of its initial review.’
The revelation adds to the sexual-misconduct claims that have been aired in recent months against powerful men in politics as well as in media and entertainment…
The Conyers case sheds light on how sexual-harassment cases are handled for congressional employees. There is no central human-resources department for congressional staff. Instead, the Office of Compliance handles sexual-harassment cases, and requires people who want to report an allegation to do so within 180 days of the harassment and go through confidential mediation…
Should a claim to the Office of Compliance result in a settlement, it is typically paid through an account in the U.S. Treasury. The Office of Compliance said last week that the government has paid more than $17 million in taxpayer money over the last 20 years to resolve claims of workplace violations, including sexual harassment, filed by employees of Congress. But the Conyers settlement was paid to the employee as salary out of Mr. Conyers’s office budget, according to the BuzzFeed report, not the Treasury account.”

-Natalie Andrews, “Conyers Settlement Shines Light on How Congress Handles Sexual Harassment,” The Wall Street Journal online, Nov. 22, 2017 10:11am

11,617. 11/20/2017

ETHICS/INTERIOR/RYAN ZINKE: “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s wife has frustrated department staffers by saddling them with extra work when she traveled with her husband on official business, according to new records that a liberal watchdog group says uncover the potential misuse of government resources.
The records document Lola Zinke’s last-minute requests to join high-level dinners and additions to the guest list for a conservative group’s event near the couple’s home in Southern California earlier this year. The Western Values Project filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit last month to force Interior to release more than 100 pages of documents related to Lola Zinke’s trips with her husband and interactions with Interior staff.
Shared first with POLITICO, the documents shed new light on the outsize profile Lola Zinke has established compared with the typical Cabinet secretary’s spouse, including her dictating which people to invite to a town hall hosted by the conservative Young America’s Foundation for her husband…
While the department says Lola Zinke paid her own way, the records show Interior used staff time to coordinate some of her activities while traveling with her husband. And the trips gave her access to high-level politicians and GOP activists and donors who could benefit her as a political operator in her own right.”

-Ben Lefebvre, “‘UGH!’: Zinke’s wife’s travel caused headaches for Interior staff,” Politico, Nov. 20, 2017 06:12pm

11,582. 11/17/2017

ETHICS/LEGAL: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for ethics investigations into two Democratic senators and a Republican candidate is putting a spotlight on a Senate committee that largely operates in secret and doesn’t disclose the results of many of its investigations.
On Thursday, a woman accused Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) of sexual misconduct in a 2006 incident, and a federal judge declared a mistrial in the corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.). Those events prompted Mr. McConnell to issue statements calling for the Senate Ethics Committee to take up their cases.
The committee announced later that day it would resume its 2012 inquiry into Mr. Menendez that it deferred in 2013 when the Justice Department took up the case…
Taking on the cases brings scrutiny to the six-person panel that does most of its work behind closed doors. The committee generally undertakes its initial investigations without public disclosure, to respect the privacy of those facing allegations. At times, it has given updates on high-profile cases, sometimes to announce that a case has been dismissed….
While it discloses little about its casework, it is required to issue an annual report. In 2016, the committee received 63 allegations of violations of Senate rules, according to the report, 57 of which were dismissed. None of the remaining allegations resulted in an admonition or disciplinary sanction.”

-Natalie Andrews, “Senators’ Calls for Ethics Probes Puts Focus to Secretive Panel,” The Wall Street Journal online, Nov. 17, 2017 09:30am

11,497. 11/14/2017

ETHICS/JEFF SESSIONS/LEGAL/POLITICAL FIGURES/WOMEN: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday [11-14-17] that he had ‘no reason to doubt’ the women who have made sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, joining a wave of high-profile Republicans who have expressed confidence in his accusers.
But Sessions did not say whether Moore should be seated if he wins a Dec. 12 special election to fill the Senate post Sessions once held. Ethics personnel at the Justice Department have advised him not to involve himself in the campaign, Sessions said.
Asked whether the Justice Department would investigate the allegations against Moore, Sessions said the agency would evaluate any allegations that they were presented with according to normal procedure, though he added, ‘This kind of case would normally be a state case.’
Sessions made his comments during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning.
Moore is running for the seat Sessions vacated this year to join the Trump administration. Some Republicans are hoping Sessions will leave his post to run as a write-in candidate against Moore.”

-Sean Sullivan, “Sessions says he has ‘no reason to doubt’ women who have accused Roy Moore of sexual misconduct,” The Washington Post online, Nov. 14, 2017 11:42am

11,395. 11/9/2017

ETHICS/WALTER SHAUB: “Walter Shaub said he felt almost powerless as head of the Office of Government Ethics to serve as a check on President Donald Trump’s administration, but he’s pushing Congress to empower his successors.
Shaub, now the senior director for ethics at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, sent a letter Thursday [11-9-17] to the leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recommending more than a dozen legislative proposals to strengthen OGE.
Recommendations include insulating the OGE director from “retaliation by establishing new procedural or substantive requirements” for removal and authorizing OGE to communicate with Congress on issues ranging from its budget and legislative proposals to its oversight of the executive branch ethics program…
Thursday’s letter includes 30 pages of proposals. To improve oversight, Shaub suggests allowing the OGE director to stay in office for up to a year beyond the term’s expiration — or until replaced. He said the post has been vacant for more than five years over the last 14, but carryover authority ‘would enhance the continuity of OGE’s operations following the end of’ a director’s term.”

-Nolan D. McCaskill, “Ex-ethics chief Shaub asks Congress to strengthen oversight office,” Politico, Nov. 9, 2017 11:01am

11,359. 11/7/2017

ETHICS/TRUMP PEOPLE: “One Saturday in early April, Omarosa Manigault caused a stir in the White House.
The Apprentice villain turned senior White House official brought members of her 39-person bridal party to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for an extended wedding photo shoot, catching fellow senior aides and some security officials by surprise in her bridal attire. They loudly wandered around, looking to snap photos in the Rose Garden and throughout the West Wing, according to four current and former White House officials.
While it’s unclear if she received any formal permission for the photo shoot, at least some lawyers and other senior aides were not briefed in advance, the officials said. They quickly banned Manigault, the director of communications for the Office of the Public Liaison, from posting the pictures online, citing security and ethical concerns.”

-Josh Dawsey, “Omarosa’s West Wing bridal adventure highlights broader dysfunction,” Politico, Nov. 7, 2017 12:13pm

11,318. 11/5/2017

COMMERCE/ETHICS/RUSSIA/WILBUR ROSS: “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed to disclose business connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s family and inner circle on a required personal financial-disclosure form earlier this year, according to documents released over the weekend.
Mr. Ross said earlier this year that he would retain stakes owned by his private-equity firm in a gas-shipping company, Navigator Holdings Ltd. He didn’t disclose that the company does millions of dollars in business—$68 million since 2014—with a Moscow petrochemicals company, Sibur, with close ties to the Kremlin, according to analysis by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Those ties were revealed this weekend in a trove of internal documents from Appleby, a Bermuda law firm that has handled more than 60 offshore holdings for Mr. Ross’s company. Those documents were leaked to a German newspaper and then shared with the journalism consortium, a global network of media outlets.”

-Rebecca Ballhaus, “Wilbur Ross Didn’t Disclose Business Ties to Putin Inner Circle,” The Wall Street Journal online, Nov. 5, 2017 11:50pm

11,017. 10/24/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/ETHICS/INTERIOR/RYAN ZINKE: “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has directed millions of dollars in political contributions since 2014 to a network of Washington operatives that prominent conservatives have accused of profiting by misleading donors…
The details about Zinke’s fundraising and spending practices have not been previously reported, nor has his years-long relationship with Mackenzie’s Virgin Islands Republican Party, a group that some Republicans in the Caribbean island chain have accused of misrepresenting itself to donors. POLITICO’s analysis of Federal Election Commission filings, plus interviews with campaign finance lawyers and people familiar with the Virgin Islands group’s fundraising, offer a deeper picture of the political activism of the retired Navy SEAL who serves in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.
None of the records indicate that Zinke violated the law or received any direct compensation from his association with Mackenzie, the Virgin Islands PAC or its consultants. But one campaign finance expert said the information shows that Zinke was not behaving like a typical politician.
An Interior Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the assistance Zinke has offered to the Virgin Islands group or his use of political consultants. Mackenzie declined to be interviewed, and officials from the Virgin Islands organization — also known as VIGOP — did not respond to requests for comment.
Zinke is separately facing investigations by Interior’s internal watchdog and the independent Office of Special Counsel over his habit of mixing politics and official business.”

-Ben Lefebvre and Nick Juliano, “Zinke funneled millions to questionable PACs,” Politico, Oct. 24, 2017 05:04am

10,773. 10/12/2017

ETHICS/GOP/POLITICAL FIGURES: “The House Ethics Committee said Thursday [10-12-17] it will continue to look into New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins’ dealings with an Australian biotech company, but has not moved ahead with a full-scale investigation into the matter.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog, had unanimously recommended that the Ethics Committee launch a full probe into Collins’ dealings with Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited, an Australian biotech company.
OCE found there was ‘substantial reason to believe’ that Collins violated House rules and federal law by using inside information in transactions involving Innate stock, as well as using his office to benefit the company, including mentioning an Innate-made drug at a committee hearing. Collins also pushed an Innate drug to NIH officials…
Collins — who has repeatedly denied any improper or unethical behavior — is on the board of Innate and is its biggest stockholder, having invested at least $6 million in the firm. His children own a block of Innate shares too.
Collins has pushed the company’s stock to former HHS Secretary and one-time House colleague Tom Price, other lawmakers and officials in Buffalo, N.Y. Collins was once overheard bragging on the phone in the House Speaker’s Lobby about “how many millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo the past few months.” Price made more than $225,000 in his Innate stock trades, according to public records.”

-John Bresnahan and Kyle Cheney, “Ethics panel continues probe into Rep. Collins’ stock trades,” Politico, Oct. 12, 2017 04:35pm

10,757. 10/11/2017

ETHICS/LEGAL/TRUMP AS PRESIDENT/TRUMP BUSINESS: “A federal judge indicated Wednesday [10-11-17] that she was taken aback by how little information the government turned over in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about President Donald Trump’s visitors at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, but she turned aside a request to rule that the authorities appeared to have violated a court order.
Pro-transparency groups cried foul last month when, just before a court-ordered deadline, Justice Department lawyers did not produce a large sheaf of Secret Service records about Trump’s contacts at what he has termed the Winter White House.
Instead, the government provided only a two-page document listing 22 members of the delegation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit in February.
The watchdog groups urged Judge Katherine Failla, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, to take action against the government, but in a brief order Wednesday she declined to do so.
‘Having reviewed the parties’ submissions, the Court shares Plaintiffs’ surprise with the extent of Defendants’ production; however, the Court is unable to find that Plaintiffs have set forth sufficient grounds for the Court to impose sanctions or issue an order to show cause,’ Failla wrote…
In last week’s filing, a Secret Service official also confirmed a report in POLITICO earlier this year that there are no visitor logs for Mar-a-Lago, as there are for the White House complex.
The litigation is expected to continue as the government defends the scope of its search and the assertion that the scheduling records are not subject to FOIA. The watchdog groups indicated they plan to challenge those assertions.”

-Josh Gerstein, “Judge surprised at feds’ slim disclosure on Mar-a-Lago visitors,” Politico, Oct. 11, 2017 08:38pm

10,637. 10/6/2017

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS/ETHICS/POLITICS/TRUMP FAMILY/IVANKA/JARED KUSHNER: “A state assemblyman wants state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s decision to drop a case against two of President Trump’s kids.
Vance received a $31,000 donation from Trump’s personal lawyer in 2013 after deciding not to prosecute Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
Vance in 2010 began looking into whether Trump’s kids misled prospective buyers in a failed Manhattan Trump Soho project, but ultimately dropped the case over the objections of his investigators, according to a report by WNYC, ProPublica, and The New Yorker…
Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz met directly with Vance in May 2012 about the fraud investigation. Vance had previously returned a $25,000 donation from Kaswowitz before the sit-down to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, the report found.
But after Vance dropped the case against the advice of his own investigators, Kasowitz made a $31,933 donation to the DA in January 2013, the report said.
Vance’s campaign returned the money after the story came out this week.”

-Kenneth Lovett, “N.Y. assemblyman wants probe of DA Vance dropping case against Trump kids.” New York Daily News, Oct. 6, 2017 08:20am

10,618. 10/5/2017

ETHICS/STEVE MNUCHIN/TREASURY: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has not violated any laws with his use of government-funded planes but should provide more detail on why he needs them in the future, the department’s inspector general found in a report released Thursday [10-5-17].
Mnuchin has flown on military aircraft seven times since becoming secretary, at a cost of approximately $811,797.81, and will do so again later this month, according to the report. He has never expensed a private charter flight…
The report was prompted by requests after Mnuchin’s trip to Kentucky with his wife, Louise Linton, who famously posted a picture of herself leaving the plane on Instagram and drew attention to the designer brands she was wearing.
According to the report, a fare was estimated for Linton’s travel, for which Mnuchin reimbursed the government…
In the eight approved flights — which do not include Mnuchin’s withdrawn request to use a government-funded plane for his honeymoon — the trips were classified as White House support missions. To qualify as such a mission, the president ‘must have specifically directed that the travel occur’ by personally requesting the assignment.”

-Victoria Guia, “Treasury inspector general finds no wrongdoing in Mnuchin plane travel,” Politico, Oct. 5, 2017 05:07pm

10,607. 10/5/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS/INTERIOR/RYAN ZINKE: “The head of the U.S. Department of the Interior came under further scrutiny on Thursday [10-5-17] amid a media report that he had attended a Republican fundraiser in March during a government trip to the Caribbean.
Politico, citing department travel records and other documents, said Ryan Zinke attended a Virgin Islands Republican Party fundraiser where donors paid up to $5,000 per couple for a photograph with the secretary.
The report comes as multiple investigations into the former one-term congressman’s travel while serving in the Trump administration were announced this week following various media reports on the subject.
On Monday, the Interior Department’s watchdog agency said it was probing Zinke’s travels after recent reports that he had used a private plane owned by an oil executive.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said it was investigating whether he broke the law in June when he gave a speech to a professional hockey team owned by a political donor.
Other Cabinet members have also been scrutinized over their use of taxpayer money for more expensive private travel rather than less expensive commercial trips.”

-Reuters Staff, “U.S. interior secretary raised political funds on government trip: report,” Reuters, Oct. 5, 2017 06:36am

10,584. 10/4/2017

ENERGY/ETHICS/RICK PERRY: “U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry took a chartered jet to Ohio last week, according to an airport management company, the day before fellow Cabinet member Tom Price resigned over his use of private charter flights for government business.
Perry took the private plane from Hazleton Regional Airport in Pennsylvania to the Greater Portsmouth Regional Airport in southern Ohio on Sept. 28, PMH Aviation, the company that runs the Portsmouth airport, said on Wednesday [10-4-17]. The purpose of his trip was to visit a uranium facility in Piketon, Ohio, according to the Energy Department.
A receptionist at the company declined to answer questions about the cost of the flight.
The only private jet to land at Greater Portsmouth Regional Airport last Thursday belonged to Dixie Capital Corp, a Richmond, Virginia-based charter company, according to data from the Flightaware website. Dixie confirmed it owned the plane, but declined to comment on Perry or say how much the trip cost.
A spokeswoman for Perry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”

-Emily Flitter, “Energy secretary took charter flight day before Price resigned,” Reuters, Oct. 4, 2017 04:20pm

10,576. 10/4/2017

ETHICS/KELLYANNE CONWAY/TRUMP PEOPLE: “The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee wants the White House to provide details of private jet flights that counselor Kellyanne Conway took with former HHS Secretary Tom Price, who resigned last week in the wake of a scandal over his use of charter planes for official business.
Conway took several trips with Price on charter jets that were related to the administration’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, a POLITICO investigation found. In a letter to the White House, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked that Conway provide documents related to all non-commercial flights she’s taken since joining the administration.

-Rachana Pradhan, “Cummings questions White House about Conway’s private jet travels,” Politico, Oct. 4, 2017 11:11am

10,561. 10/3/2017

ETHICS/VA/VETS: “The VA’s inspector general is reviewing Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s July business trip to London and Denmark, which included meetings with Danish and UK officials as well as a stop at Wimbledon.
It’s now the fifth investigation into a member of the Trump administration’s travel by a department inspector general.
Shulkin joins Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and recently resigned Heath and Human Services Secretary Tom Price under scrutiny for the use of private planes, first class travel, military air or flights for possible personal reasons.
Michael Nacincik, spokesman for the VA inspector general’s office, told CNN he could not specify who requested the investigation, nor whether the inspector general’s office was investigating any other travel by the secretary.
News of Shulkin’s July trip abroad, which included a Thames River cruise, was first reported by The Washington Post last week.
Following the report, the Veterans Affairs department posted the trip itinerary online, which showed that Shulkin traveled with his wife and three members of the department, one of whom also brought a spouse. The US government paid for the travel expenses and a per diem for Shulkin’s wife, Merle Bari, the Post reported.”

-Miranda Green, Rene Marsh, and Gregory Wallace, “VA Secretary David Shulkin under review for work trip to Europe,” CNN Politics, CNN.com, Oct. 3, 2017 07:46pm

10,545. 10/3/2017

CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS/INTERIOR/RYAN ZINKE: “The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke broke the law when he gave a speech to a professional hockey team owned by a political donor in June, the agency said on Tuesday.
Zinke is already being investigated by the Interior Department’s inspector general in connection with his travels and the use of private charter flights, amid heightened scrutiny into private plane use by administration officials.
The Campaign for Accountability complained last week that a speech Zinke gave on June 26 to the Vegas Golden Knights, a National Hockey League team based in Las Vegas, violated the Hatch Act barring executive branch employees from engaging in political activity.
The team is owned by Bill Foley, chairman of Fidelity National Financial Inc and a donor to Zinke’s congressional campaigns.
The Office of Special Counsel’s Hatch Act unit, which is independent from the Justice Department, said in an email to Daniel Stevens, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability, that it received its Hatch Act complaint ‘and will open a case file to address this matter.’
A spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment on the case.
Interior Department officials said the speech did not violate any laws, rules or regulations.”

-Valerie Volcovici, “U.S. Interior Secretary investigated over speech to donor’s hockey team,” Reuters, Oct. 3, 2017 09:34am

10,536. 10/2/2017

ETHICS/LEGAL/TRUMP FAMILY/IVANKA/JARED KUSHNER: “White House officials have begun examining emails associated with a third and previously unreported email account on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s private domain, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Hundreds of emails have been sent since January from White House addresses to accounts on the Kushner family domain, these people said. Many of those emails went not to Kushner’s or Ivanka Trump’s personal addresses but to an account they both had access to and shared with their personal household staff for family scheduling.
The emails — which include nonpublic travel documents, internal schedules and some official White House materials —were in many cases sent from Ivanka Trump, her assistant Bridges Lamar and others who work with the couple in the White House. The emails to the third account were largely sent from White House accounts but occasionally came from other private accounts, one of these people said.
The existence of additional accounts on the family domain beyond the two personal accounts used by Kushner and Ivanka Trump and reported earlier raises new questions about the extent of personal email use by the couple during their time as White House aides. Their use of private email accounts for White House business also raises concerns about the security of potentially sensitive government documents, which have been forwarded to private accounts.
The family has declined to say what privacy measures have been placed on the domain, but a person familiar with the setup said some security measures were taken when it was installed.”

-Josh Dawsey and Andrea Peterson, “Hundreds of White House emails sent to third Kushner family account,” Politico, Oct. 2, 2017 07:52pm

10,528. 10/2/2017

ETHICS/INTERIOR/RYAN ZINKE: “The Interior Department’s inspector general’s office has opened an investigation into Secretary Ryan Zinke’s use of taxpayer-funded charter planes, a spokeswoman said Monday [10-2-17].
The watchdog has ‘received numerous complaints’ and launched its investigation late last week, said Nancy K. DiPaolo, spokeswoman for Interior’s Office of the Inspector General.
Zinke is one of several members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to face questions over his expensive travel, along with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and former HHS Secretary Tom Price, who resigned Friday.
The secretary has flown on government-owned or -chartered aircraft several times this year, including one $12,000 trip from Las Vegas to an airport near his hometown in Montana and another trip in the Caribbean, as POLITICO reported last week…
Zinke last week called the attention paid to the events ‘a little B.S.’ and said he followed the law. On Friday evening, after Price’s resignation, the White House cracked down on non-commercial travel by Cabinet members. ‘[J]ust because something is legal doesn’t make it right,’ Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney wrote in a memo to agency heads.”

-Ben Lefebvre, “Interior watchdog opens investigation into Zinke’s travel,” Politico, Oct. 2, 2017 02:13pm

10,449. 9/28/2017

ETHICS/INTERIOR/RYAN ZINKE: “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides have taken several flights on private or military aircraft, including a $12,000 charter plane to take him to events in his hometown in Montana and private flights between two Caribbean islands, according to documents and a department spokeswoman.
Zinke is at least the fourth senior member of the Trump administration to have used non-commercial planes at taxpayer expense, along with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and HHS Secretary Tom Price. President Donald Trump has fumed at Price’s pricey travel, and Democrats say the revelations demonstrate a cavalier attitude by Cabinet members toward excessive spending.
Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said Zinke’s charter or military plane trips were booked only after officials were unable to find commercial flights that would accommodate Zinke’s schedule, and that all were ‘pre-cleared by career officials in the ethics office.’ Swift said she had not spoken to Zinke about whether he would reimburse the government for the cost of the flights, as Price plans to do for some of the $400,000 tab he racked up on charter flights.”

-Ben Lefebvre, “Interior Secretary Zinke traveled on charter, military planes,” Politico, Sept. 28, 2017 07:54pm

10,446. 9/28/2017

ETHICS/HHS/TOM PRICE: “Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said he would stop traveling on private jets and reimburse the federal government more than $50,000 for his flights, a day after President Donald Trump said he wasn’t pleased with the practice and signaled it could endanger his job…
Dr. Price, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, said he would fully cooperate with the previously disclosed inspector general’s investigation into his travel. He added that he has launched another internal HHS review on the matter…
An investigation by Politico found that Dr. Price had taken at least 26 charter flights since May, which also included other passengers such as staff and security officials. Politico put the total cost to the government of the flights at more than $400,000.
An HHS official said Dr. Price was reimbursing the government $51,887.31. The department didn’t provide a figure for the overall cost of the flights.
The HHS has defended Dr. Price’s use of private jets as tied to the demands of his job, including his role in the department’s response to the recent hurricanes that have hit parts of the U.S.
Dr. Price is one of several officials who have faced criticism for their use of government and private jets to fly to official events and meetings. Those flights are typically more expensive than travel on commercial airlines.”

-Eli Stokols, “Tom Price Makes Payment to Government for Use of Private Jets,” The Wall Street Journal online, Sept. 28, 2017 07:10pm

10,444. 9/28/2017

ETHICS/HHS/TOM PRICE: “The White House approved the use of military aircraft for multi-national trips by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to Africa and Europe this spring, and to Asia in the summer, at a cost of more than $500,000 to taxpayers.
The overseas trips bring the total cost to taxpayers of Price’s travels to more than $1 million since May, according to a POLITICO review...
HHS spokeswoman Charmaine Yoest said Price has reimbursed the agency for the cost of his wife’s travel abroad, but declined to say when he did so. Price has been under intense criticism since POLITICO revealed his extensive use of charter aircraft for domestic flights last week. His travel expenditures are subject to reviews by the HHS inspector general and the House Oversight Committee. Democratic and Republican senators have also demanded information about Price’s travel expenditures.
The White House assesses the use of military aircraft for overseas travel by Cabinet members on a case-by-case basis. Secretaries whose jobs involve national security functions are more likely to require military jets, but the White House occasionally approves the use of military planes for other members of the Cabinet…
But one of Price’s recent predecessors, Kathleen Sebelius, who served for five years under President Barack Obama, said she never took a military plane on her many trips overseas; she always flew commercially. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who served as HHS secretary for the final 2½ years of the Obama administration, used a military jet for travel to Havana, Cuba, according to former HHS aides.”

-Rachana Pradhan, “Price took military jets to Europe, Asia for over $500K,” Politico, Sept. 28, 2017 06:56pm

10,420. 9/27/2017

EPA/ETHICS/SCOTT PRUITT: “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has taken at least four noncommercial and military flights since mid-February, costing taxpayers more than $58,000 to fly him to various parts of the country, according to records provided to a congressional oversight committee and obtained by The Washington Post…
The EPA provided documents that outlined how its Office of General Counsel had given legal authorization for each trip. ‘The administrator, and any Cabinet secretary, is the face of that agency. They’re very outward facing, and we have an obligation to get out throughout the country,’ Bowman said.
The most expensive of the four trips came in early June, when Pruitt traveled from Andrews Air Force Base to Cincinnati to join President Trump as he pitched a plan to revamp U.S. infrastructure. From there, the administrator and several staff members continued on a military jet to John F. Kennedy airport in New York to catch a flight to Italy for an international meeting of environmental ministers. The cost of that flight was $36,068.50.
The EPA said in travel documents that the White House had approved the trip and that ‘no viable commercial flights’ would have allowed Pruitt to make his plane to Italy, where he had ‘scheduled meetings with Vatican officials the next day.’ His official calendar listed meetings with the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, and a roundtable discussion with the Italian Court of Appeals.”

-Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, “EPA’s Pruitt took charter, military flights that cost taxpayers more than $58,000,” The Washington Post online, Sept. 27, 2017 07:12pm