The Department of Transportation (DOT) has confirmed an internal watchdog group is opening a new audit into Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg over his widespread use of private jets.
The Inspector General of the DOT’s investigation comes around two months after an investigation by Fox News showed that Buttigieg has taken at minimum 18 flights using taxpayer-funded funded jets since he assumed office in early 2021. Buttigieg has repeatedly pushed for aggressive action to battle climate change.
Fox examined flight records aligned with Buttigieg’s internal calendar obtained by Americans for Public Trust (APT), a government watchdog group.
“After Americans for Public Trust helped determine Secretary Buttigieg’s excessive use of taxpayer-funded government jets, we are pleased to see that his air travel is now under investigation,” said Caitlin Sutherland, APT executive director.
“Everyday Americans have faced unprecedented flight cancelations and disruptions, but Buttigieg has continued to fly private, even on a Coast Guard plan and even when commercial options were readily available,” said Sutherland.
On one occasion, Buttigieg used government-controlled private jets, part of a small fleet that the Federal Aviation Administration handles; Buttigieg traveled from Washington, D.C., to Las Vegas in August 2021 to promote public works projects.
In another instance, Buttigieg utilized a private jet to fly to several states. In recent elections, most of the states he visited were mainly swing states. He traveled in August as part of a tour highlighting grants authorized under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He flew to Oklahoma, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, and Minnesota as part of a “Building a Better America Tour.”
The Secretary also took a military aircraft with his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, in April 2022 to attend the Invictus Games in Europe. The same month, he jetted off to New York City on a government plane for two brief meetings and a radio interview, returning only a few hours later.
Buttigieg says he is thankful for the investigation
“We welcome this independent audit moving forward to put some of the false, outlandish, and cynical claims about the Secretary’s mode of travel to rest. The fact remains that he flies commercially the vast majority of the time,” said a DOT spokesperson.
“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,” added the spokesperson.
On Monday, Buttigieg tweeted that he was grateful for the investigation and added that when he uses government-managed jets, “it’s usually a situation where doing so saves taxpayer money.”
GOP Senator Marco Rubio of Florida initially requested that the Inspector General of the DOT open an investigation into Buttigieg’s travel on December 16.
At the time, Rubio wrote, “It is unclear why Secretary Buttigieg would require such costly travel in these instances when more economical options were reportedly available.”
The government can access the General Services Administration’s City Pair Program, allowing them to fly on several airlines for below-market flat fares. The program is designed to ensure low prices for official federal government trips.
Elaine Chao, Buttigieg’s predecessor, led the DOT throughout the administration of former President Donald Trump. It was criticized after it came to light that she used government-managed planes in 2017 on seven different occasions, which cost taxpayers around $94,000.
Tom Price, former Health and Human Services Secretary, was made to resign after reports that he had spent more than $1 million in taxpayer money on government jets.