Shulkin is under fire for a trip to Europe during summer of 2017. The government paid not only for Shulkin, but also for his wife, a security detail, and other staffers. Almost half of the trip was devoted to tourism, visiting castles and then the Wimbledon tennis tournament, to which the Shulkins improperly accepted tickets. A scathing inspector general’s report last month described “serious dereliction by VA personnel concerning the Europe trip,” which cost more than $122,000 total.
Carson’s big problem is a $31,000 dining-table set purchased for his office, which far exceeded regulations on spending for decoration. (The secretary has worried publicly about public housing being too comfortable for inhabitants.) His team has repeatedly bobbled the case: It first became public when an employee alleged she was fired for refusing to approve the spending. HUD initially said Carson was unaware of the purchase, only to have emails emerge that contradict that claim. Then during testimony to a House subcommittee last week, the secretary blamed his wife—a choice unwise for reasons both domestic and professional, since Carson is the secretary and his wife is not a government official.
Price was forced to resign after spending more than $1 million on travel on private and military jets. That’s the largest single figure to emerge, but only by a hair, while the type of behavior has occurred repeatedly. Documents obtained by the left-leaning watchdog group CREW suggest Mnuchin racked up nearly $1 million in his own travel, including a notorious trip to watch the eclipse at Fort Knox in Kentucky, publicized by his wife Louise Linton’s Instagram feud about it.*
Then there’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who took a security detail along when he went on a non-work-related two-week vacation in Greece and Turkey last year. (For context, Zinke is a former Navy SEAL.) Zinke’s travel habits are also the subject of an inspector-general investigation. That includes trips in which Zinke mixed official business and visits with donors. He also chartered a flight for $12,000 at taxpayer cost, aboard a plane owned by executives at an oil company. In another case, he spent $14,000 on helicopter rides around D.C., in part so he could participate in a horseback ride with Vice President Pence. (This is something of a pattern for Zinke: He was reprimanded for, and according to some former flag officers saw his career partly derailed by, inappropriately billing the government for travel home while he was a SEAL.) For still-opaque reasons, the Interior Department paid $139,000 for a door for Zinke’s office; the House Oversight Committee is investigating.
Don’t forget Scott Pruitt, the EPA chief, who has spent more than $100,000 on first-class tickets, an expenditure he attributed to the need for security, citing vague and indeterminate threats. EPA initially said that Pruitt has a “blanket waiver” to fly first class, then quickly changed its story when reports pointed out that federal rules prevent any such waiver. Pruitt has separately rung up nearly $60,000 in flights on charter and military jets. He also spent almost $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth for his office.