10.03.17

Murray Presses Former HHS Sec. Tom Price to Honor Commitment to Repay Taxpayers for Luxury Travel

 

Following resignation, still no word from Tom Price or Administration on his pledge to “write personal check to the U.S. Treasury” for abuse of taxpayer dollars

 

In letter, Murray asks Treasury Sec. Mnuchin to confirm that Price will pay back taxpayers, amount of the reimbursement

 

Murray: “While Price may no longer be Secretary of HHS, he still has the responsibility to repay the American public”

 

Murray also seeks new information on other Cabinet members’ travel

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seeking confirmation on whether or not former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price has reimbursed the U.S. Treasury for his chartered travel expenses.

 

After reports of Price’s use of private travel became public, Price released a statement saying he would “write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the expense of my travel on private chartered planes. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.” Despite this statement, it has yet to be confirmed if the U.S. Treasury has received a check from Price following his resignation.

 

“While Price may no longer be Secretary of HHS, he still has the responsibility to repay the American public,” wrote Senator Murray. “Anything less is a clear indication that Price was not in fact sorry for his abuse of taxpayer dollars, but was just sorry that he was caught.”

 

In her letter, Murray noted that Price only committed to pay an amount of $51,887.31 to reimburse “his seats on the charter planes”— not the entire cost of chartering the planes. At the time of his confirmation, Price’s wealth was estimated to be approximately $14 million.

 

Along with information on Price’s reimbursement, Murray also requested that Secretary Mnuchin provide information on any other Cabinet officials or federal employees in the Trump Administration who may have traveled via private planes and whether those officials plan to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the cost of their chartered travel.

 

Full text of letter below and PDF can be found HERE:

 

October 3, 2017

 

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin

Secretary

Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20220

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin:

 

Prior to his resignation on September 29, 2017, former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Thomas Price committed to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of his travel on private planes for official business.  While Price may no longer be Secretary of HHS, he still has the responsibility to follow through on his commitment to repay the American public. Anything less is a clear indication that Price was not in fact sorry for his abuse of taxpayer dollars, but was just sorry that he was caught. 

 

By the latest estimates, Price’s travel on private planes and military jets for official business amounted to over $1 million.  On September 28, one day before his resignation, Price released a statement saying, “Today, I will write a personal check to the US Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes.  The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.”[1]  An HHS spokesperson later confirmed that “Secretary Price will write a personal check to the US Treasury for $51,887.31.”  This amount was said to reflect the difference between the cost of his seat on private planes and what it would have cost had Price made the same trips in business class on commercial flights.[2]  The HHS statement was careful to make clear that Price only planned to reimburse taxpayers for “his seats on charter planes,” not for the costs of the chartered planes in their entirety.[3] 

 

Price’s plans to reimburse taxpayers for only a fraction of the costs incurred for his private and military travel is entirely inadequate.[4]  At the time of his confirmation, Price’s wealth was estimated at approximately $14 million.[5]  In fact, according to his certificate of divestiture and financial disclosures, Price has substantially increased his wealth during his tenure as Secretary by selling off shares of stock, including nearly 500,000 shares of stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics valued at about $320,000 at the time of his divestiture.[6] 

 

To confirm that former Secretary Price does in fact reimburse the federal government, please respond to the following questions and document requests no later than October 17, 2017:

 

  1. Has former Secretary Price reimbursed the U.S. Treasury for the cost of his travel on chartered planes? 
  2. If he has, what was the amount of the reimbursement? 
  3. If no payment has been received, what is the date by which the U.S. Treasury expects the payment?
  4. Did former Secretary Price or other HHS officials explain to your Department how they arrived at the amount of the payment?  Did the U.S. Treasury or HHS conduct any assessments to confirm the cost of the former Secretary’s seat on the chartered planes or the total costs of the planes?
  5. Have any other Cabinet officials or federal employees within the Trump Administration reimbursed the U.S. Treasury for the cost of their chartered travel for official business?  If so, please provide the details of those transactions, including, but not limited to:
    1. the individual’s name;
    2. the individual’s position;
    3. the amount of his or her reimbursement; and
    4. the date the U.S. Treasury received the payment.

 

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this critical matter. If you have any questions, or would like to further discuss compliance with this request, please contact Elizabeth Letter of Senator Murray’s HELP Committee staff at 202-224-6403.

 

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[5] Public Financial Disclosure Report (OGE Form 278e) for Thomas E. Price, Office of Government Ethics (January 11, 2017); http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/29/news/economy/tom-price-worth/index.html.

[6] Certificate of Divestiture for Thomas E. Price, Office of Government Ethics (February 10, 2017); Public Financial Disclosure Report: Periodic Transaction Report (OGE Form 278-E) for Thomas Price, Office of Government Ethics (March 30, 2017); https://www.wsj.com/articles/tom-price-tripled-his-investment-in-biomedical-firm-with-sale-of-stock-1491341091?mod=mktw.