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After Public Outrage, Tom Price Forced To Stop Using Taxpayer Money For Private Jet

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Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who has called for massive spending cuts to the health agencies he oversees, has no problem spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on private jets. But after sparking public outrage after it was reported that he was using taxpayer funds for private jets, Price was forced to stop wasting taxpayers money.

During an interview on Fox News on Saturday Price said that he’ll stop his taxpayer-funded travel on private jets, pending a formal review by his department’s inspector general.

“We’ve heard the criticism. We’ve heard the concerns. We take that very seriously and have taken it to heart,” Price said.

As reported by Political Dig last week, the HHS secretary had been chartering private planes for months. The cost of his trips this past week was $56,500, according to a federal contract.

In a separate report, Politico identified more than $400,000 in charter jet spending for Price’s travels since May. In total, Price has taken 26 flights on private planes at taxpayers’ expense during that period.

Price’s use of private jets breaks with the practices of Obama administration HHS secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially while in the continental United States and deliberately avoided taking charter jets. HHS staff last year scrapped a proposal for Burwell to take a multi-city tour linked to the kickoff of annual Obamacare enrollment because the trip would have required charter aircraft and cost about $60,000.

Trying to defend himself, Price blames the criticism of his travel on “political witch hunt.”

“Remember that there are folks who want to see this president fail; there are folks who want to see this administration fail,” he said. “That is part of the stream; we are swimming upstream against that kind of current, but that’s not dissuading us at all.”

Key Democrats overseeing health issues in Congress had formally requested that HHS’s inspector general review Price’s travel practices and whether they comply with federal travel regulations.

Price admitted that “the optics in some of this don’t look good,” and said that HHS would “cooperate fully” with the HHS inspector general review, which is already underway.

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Investigations

Betsy DeVos Made More Than $56 Million Last Year While Serving As Sec. Of Education: CREW

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According to a new report by the non-profit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Betsy DeVos reported up to $100 million or more in income last year while serving as the Secretary of Education.

Citing a review of her personal financial disclosures, CREW revealed that more than $20 million of that came from Alticor, the parent company of multi-level marketing behemoth Amway, co-founded by DeVos’ late father-in-law Rich DeVos.

The copy of the report that CREW obtained has not been certified by the Department of Education or the Office of Government Ethics, and the report may yet be revised. Regardless, this version gives a peek behind the curtain at the finances of the richest member of Trump’s cabinet. DeVos, who along with her husband is worth billions, reported income last year that ranges between $56,311,836 – $100,496,358.00, according to CREW’s analysis, but could be much higher due to the vagueness of reporting requirements.

Despite donating her official salary, DeVos’ time in the Trump administration has still been very profitable, as she reported a similar amount of income the year before.

It is possible that DeVos earned significantly more than $100 million in 2019 because she is not required to specify amounts received from particular assets above $1 million for her spouse or amounts above $5 million for herself. In her most recent disclosure, DeVos reported income from 11 sources that exceeded $1 million or $5 million without specifying the actual amount received.

DeVos reported earning between $100,001 and $1,000,000 in interest from a loan given to Neurocore, a significant increase over the $5,001 – $15,000 she reported in 2018. Neurocore operates brain performance centers that use unproven techniques to treat conditions in children and adults such as anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

DeVos’ interest in Neurocore has drawn scrutiny in the past due to the possibility that Neurocore, like some of its peers, might seek to partner with schools and benefit from programs DeVos oversees as Secretary of Education. Last year, CREW found that DeVos did not issue a recusal statement related to Neurocore as required by ethics laws and regulations to ensure that she would not participate in certain matters related to the company. The fact that DeVos’ interest in Neurocore increased by millions of dollars while she was leading the Department of Education and she never issued a recusal statement related to the company raises ethics concerns.

DeVos reported several loans to Amway’s holding company, Alticor Global Holdings, Inc., totaling as much as $80 million or more made in various family trusts on her financial disclosure covering 2018. The loans may have been a sign that Amway was struggling financially. Though Amway reported an increase in sales for the first time in four years in 2018, the company eliminated 45 positions that year and also announced plans to close two manufacturing plants. In her latest disclosure, DeVos reported that all of the loans owed by Alticor were repaid in 2019, suggesting that the company may have had a good year in 2019.

Amway is also no stranger to controversy, having long fought allegations of being a pyramid scheme. The Amway model revolves around recruiting new people to sell Amway products, charging them fees to do so. Earlier this year, a lawsuit was filed in California alleging that as Amway’s sellers are focused on recruiting new people to the company, Amway ripped them off by failing to pay them minimum wage. The company has paid tens of millions of dollars over the years to settle various lawsuits.

DeVos makes it a point that she donates her entire federal salary to charity every year. It’s easy to donate $199,700 when you’re making $50 – $100 million, or more, on the side.

T/H: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

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