October 24, 2019

Warren, Murray, and Wyden Demand Update from Trump Administration on the Recovery of $341,000 in Taxpayer Funds Spent on Lavish Travel by Former-HHS Secretary Tom Price

HHS Inspector General concluded that Price violated travel policies and misused taxpayer funds; Trump Administration has not acted on recommendations from agency watchdog

Washington, DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, U.S. Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and U.S. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar demanding to know when the Trump administration will recoup hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars wasted on charter jet flights taken by former HHS Secretary Tom Price and when he plans to implement recommendations outlined by the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) to prevent such waste from occurring again.

The letter from the senators comes more than 14 months after the OIG recommended HHS recover at least $341,000 of misused federal funds and take steps to ensure the abuse of taxpayer money does not occur again. Earlier this month, OIG told the senators’ offices that HHS has not provided proof of any demonstrable progress toward resolving OIG’s recommendations, all seven of which remain outstanding.

According to the OIG audit, Secretary Price’s office improperly chartered private and military aircraft, or otherwise failed to comply with federal travel regulations for 20 of the 21 trips he took during the course of his seven-month tenure. In total, the flights cost taxpayers $1.2 million, an extraordinary sum given that Secretary Price took the flights to and from cities where commercial service was readily available at far less expense. Secretary Price resigned two years ago after press reports revealed his office’s repeated and deliberate misuse of taxpayer dollars to charter expensive aircraft, including for travel he took to conduct personal business.

“American taxpayers deserve full transparency and accountability for former Secretary Price’s exorbitant travel habits, and they deserve to be repaid in full,” wrote the lawmakers.

Senators Warren, Murray, and Wyden have requested responses to the questions in their letter no later than November 6, 2019.

During his confirmation process in 2017, Senator Warren raised concerns that Secretary Price traded health-related stocks as a member of Congress while sponsoring legislation that would impact those same stocks, among other concerns. Since then, Senator Warren has introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, the most ambitious anti-corruption legislation since Watergate that would crack down on all forms of influence peddling and corruption, including by preventing members of Congress and Cabinet officials from holding or trading individual stock. The legislation would restore the American public’s faith in democracy by ensuring that actions taken by public officials are intended to serve the public, and not those officials.