OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Like most other Democratic officials within the Biden administration, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is an advocate for “zero emissions” green energy. However, according to a watchdog group tracking his activities, it doesn’t seem as if he practices what he preaches.
Buttigieg “has taken at least 18 flights using taxpayer-funded private jets since taking office,” according to a December Fox News Digital report, and is now being called out to explain his frequent use of the amenity.
Flight tracking data reviewed by the outlet reveals that Buttigieg utilized a private jet fleet managed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to travel across the country, including visits to Florida, Ohio, and New Hampshire, as well as international trips. The flight records are consistent with Buttigieg’s schedule of public engagements obtained by the government watchdog group, Americans for Public Trust (APT).
Former President Donald Trump’s appointee, Elaine Chao, who preceded Buttigieg, came under fire in 2017 for using the same private jets on seven occasions, resulting in nearly $94,000 in expenses for taxpayers, according to Politico. Additionally, Tom Price, a former Health and Human Services Secretary appointed by Trump, reportedly took 26 private jet flights in the same year, resulting in a cost of around $1.2 million to taxpayers, and ultimately led to his resignation.
“Bipartisan leaders on the House Oversight and Reform Committee had opened an investigation into several senior Trump administration officials’ use of government-owned and private aircraft for travel days before Price submitted his letter of resignation,” the outlet reported.
“Everyday Americans face flight [cancellations] and long wait times because Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has completely mismanaged air travel,” APT executive director Caitlin Sutherland told Fox News Digital at the time. “Yet, he gets to avoid all that by taking taxpayer-funded private jets to destinations with readily available commercial airline options.”
“And for someone so holier-than-thou on reducing emissions, Buttigieg sure doesn’t seem to mind the pollution caused by his literal jet-setting,” she added. “This is hypocrisy at its finest, and these troubling expenses to taxpayers must come under immediate scrutiny.”
As per the Washington Post’s report during the congressional investigation into the travel expenses of Trump administration officials in 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) charged around $5,000 per hour for the use of its fleet by federal agencies, though the exact cost of Buttigieg’s flights to taxpayers is not yet known, Fox News Digital reported.
In a separate report on Monday, Fox News noted that the Department of Transportation’s inspector general has opened an investigation into Buttigieg’s frequent use of private jets.
“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,” APT executive director Caitlin Sutherland told the outlet on Monday.
“Everyday Americans have faced unprecedented flight cancelations and disruptions, but Buttigieg has continued to fly private, even on a Coast Guard plane and even when commercial options were readily available,” she added.
In one case, Buttigieg utilized a government-managed private jet, which belongs to a small fleet managed by the Federal Aviation Administration, for a roundtrip journey from Washington, D.C., to Las Vegas in August 2021. The purpose of the trip was to promote public works projects in Nevada.
Also, as part of his “Building a Better America Tour,” Buttigieg traveled to various states in August to promote grants authorized under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He used a private jet to fly to Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Notably, most of these states have been considered swing states in recent federal elections, Fox News added.
In April 2022, Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, traveled to Europe to attend the Fifth Invictus Games, for which they used a military aircraft. During the same month, Buttigieg traveled to New York City on one of the government planes for a radio interview and two brief meetings before returning a few hours later, the network noted.
“We welcome this independent audit moving forward in order 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,” a DOT spokesperson told the outlet.
“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,” the spokesperson noted further.