It’s completely legal for high-profile Federal officials to spend public funds to do private things, thanks to a convoluted system of rules governing spending and reimbursement for air travel expenses.
Attorney General Eric Holder, for example, flew himself, his daughters, his daughters’ boyfriends and two guards to the Belmont Stakes in June – a trip that cost $14,440 in public funds. But since he is legally obligated only to pay the reimbursement equivalent of what that trip would have cost on a commercial air service, he repaid the government $955.
On to the next trip.
The Daily Caller, which recently obtained the record of Holder’s travel expenses under a Freedom of Information Act request, fills in the rest:
Even for personal trips like this, the attorney general doesn’t fly commercial. For security reasons, Holder — like other top government officials — flies a government plane, though is required to reimburse taxpayers for airfare.
That one day trip to Elmont, N.Y. on June 7, according to records provided to TheDC by the Department of Justice, ended up costing the government $14,440.
But Holder only had to reimburse the government $955 for flying him and four passengers to the final leg of the Triple Crown horse races that day.
That’s because he only has to pay the equivalent cost of a coach commercial airline ticket for each non-law enforcement passenger — not the total cost to charter the plane.
Neither Holder nor other Obama officials is unique in taking advantage of the perks of government air travel. Look for examples of how President George W. Bush used Air Force One for fundraising travel, and you will find them.
Democrat or Republican, the ethics at play indicate a systemic incentive for Federal officials to take personal trips – with all the protections their power demands – that they otherwise might forego if they had to jostle with the business-class hoi polloi…while paying market rate for the privilege.