Thousands of flights jet to Miami every day. Hundreds of them come from the New York area. On airlines such as JetBlue and American, it's easy to find a round-trip ticket from MIA to LaGuardia for less than $300. If you're willing to schlep to Fort Lauderdale and avoid a carry-on, you can snag a seat on Spirit for even less.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did not use any of these options when he traveled to Miami in July. Instead, the man appointed by Donald Trump in the president's quest to "drain the swamp" and reform Washington corruption chartered a military aircraft that set taxpayers back $43,726. For one trip to Miami!
That figure comes in a new analysis of Mnuchin's travel by the New York Times, which found that since June, he'd blown upward of $172,000 on domestic flights that, had he simply flown commercial, would have cost at most $3,400.
Mnuchin's use of military flights came under scrutiny thanks to his wife, Scottish actress Louise Linton, who on Instagram boasted of a military flight to Kentucky while listing all the designer brands she'd worn on the journey. She later lashed out at a commenter critical of the trip by calling the woman "adorably out of touch." That bizarre episode came around the same time Trump's pick for human health and services secretary resigned after getting caught wasting more than a million bucks on private jets.
The government launched a probe, which found Mnuchin hadn't technically broken any laws — but had blown $800,000 on military flights when he easily could have flown commercial. An inspector with the Treasury Department rapped his boss on the knuckles over the expenses.
"Even when the criteria [of federal regulations] allow for the use of Government-owned, rented, leased, or chartered aircraft," he wrote in the report, "departments and agencies should still consider whether commercial air travel is a more appropriate use of taxpayer resources."
The Times analysis today itemizes those flights, including his extremely costly jaunt to Miami — the most expensive single-city flight he's taken as treasury secretary. (He racked up a $94,101 bill on a two-city junket to Las Vegas and Parksburg, West Virginia, in August.)
The July trip was so Mnuchin could attend the Conference on Prosperity and Security, a regional gathering of South and Central American leaders in Miami-Dade County.
Ironically, among the topics on the table for Mnuchin's trip: how to combat government corruption throughout the region.
Here's a crazy idea: Make government officials sit in coach for all of two hours to save taxpayers about $42,700.
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