Democrats Flew at Taxpayer Expense and Almost Nobody Cared

Leon Panetta

The media and the Democrats are in a frenzy over flights that Trump administration officials have taken on military or private jets, and billed to the taxpayer. Yet they showed almost no concern whatsoever when President Barack Obama’s Cabinet appointees, and other leading Democrats, took expensive military flights for personal reasons.

In 2012, reports emerged that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had charged the taxpayers at least $800,000 dollars for flights home to California from Washington, DC, every weekend. He “billed the government $32,000 per private flight home,” the Atlantic noted at the time, but only reimbursed the taxpayers $632 per flight. While he “regretted” the cost, Panetta said that he had no intention of stopping the flights. And — in his defense — he was following the procedures required by law since the George W. Bush administration for Cabinet officials’ flights.

The use — or abuse — of government aircraft was not limited to Obama administration officials. In 2007, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was found to have requested military aircraft for a variety of trips, at times insisting on a larger plane and military escorts. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said later, after publishing documents related to Pelosi’s travel requests : “Speaker Pelosi treats the Air Force like her personal airline.”

That does not excuse waste by Trump administration officials, nor does it answer questions about potential conflicts of interests when they fly on private aircraft. But it does expose the hypocrisy of Democrats like Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who tweeted Thursday that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price needed to “resign NOW” for merely reimbursing the government for the cost of taking commercial flights — exactly what Panetta had done.

In a rare act of journalism, CNN even pointed out Friday that the Trump administration had approved fewer military flights by Cabinet members than Obama had at the same point in his presidency. The faux outrage among Democrats has absolutely nothing to do with concerns about good governance, and everything to do with politics.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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