Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg allegedly has flown on a government-owned plane 18 times since 2021 at taxpayer expense.
Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., introduced a bill last month titled the Justification and Examination of Transportation Staff’s Executive Travel Costs Act (JETSET) of 2023.
The bill would require Buttigieg and other senior Transportation Department officials “to determine that the cost of a flight to a destination on aircraft owned, operated, or maintained by the Department of Transportation is at least 5 percent less than the cost of a flight on a commercial airline to the destination, neither the Secretary nor the Secretary’s executive staff shall travel to such destination on any aircraft owned, operated, or maintained by the Department of Transportation.”
Pete Buttigieg Would Be Required to Evaluate Commercial Flight Alternatives
It also would require the Transportation Department to determine the “actual and full cost of a flight on aircraft owned, operated, or maintained by the Department of Transportation when comparing such flight to any commercial alternative.”
Congress defeated similar legislation last month that was included in an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill. The legislation was defeated by a 219-216 vote.
Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., introduced similar legislation.
“Holding our government accountable is not a partisan issue, and the JETSET Costs Act would ensure that current and future transportation secretaries are accountable to the American people for their travel costs at taxpayer expense. While this legislation does not ban the use of private jets for secretaries, it limits the use to emergency situations and only if the Secretary can provide that the flight cost is 5% less than traveling commercially,” Bergman said in a statement
Report: Buttigieg Made Frivolous Use of Government Aircraft
The effort to ground Pete Buttigieg came on the heels of a Fox News Digital report last December noting that he had used a government-managed plane for what appeared to be frivolous reasons.
On one occasion, Buttigieg traveled roundtrip from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas to promote public works projects in August 2021. On another occasion, he used a government aircraft to visit multiple states that were considered electoral battleground states in August 2022 amid a public works tour highlighting federal infrastructure grants.
The Fox News Digital report from December prompted the Inspector General to open an investigation.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, raised the issue of Buttigieg’s use of government planes in a January letter.
Grassley objected to Buttigieg reportedly using government planes to attend what were ostensibly political functions.
“These include flights to what some describe as a list of presidential swing states, as well as a flight to New York for a radio interview and two brief meetings, one with the president of the ACLU and another with DOT employees. It is difficult to see how these trips, and perhaps others, required use of expensive non-commercial travel. For example, many commercial travel options exist between Washington and New York. Moreover, radio interviews presumably can be done by calling in to the program or picked up a phone to talk to, create questions about whether you really required the use of a private jet, especially as you call on Americans to sacrifice to reduce carbon emission,” Grassley wrote.
Buttigieg Office Dismisses Allegations
Pete Buttigieg’s office defended the travel when pressed on the issue.
“The fact remains that he flies commercially the vast majority of the time,” Buttigieg spokeswoman Kerry Arndt said last February. “The exceptions have been when the Department’s career ethics officials, who have served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, determined that the use of a 9-seat FAA plane would be either more cost effective or should be approved for exceptional scheduling or security reasons.”
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.
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