APRIL 13, 2016
Living up to the government’s well-established reputation for blowing huge amounts of taxpayer dollars on travel, the first director of the Navy Sexual Assault Prevention Office repeatedly violated regulations during her globe-trotting missions, wasting thousands of dollars in less than a dozen trips analyzed in a federal audit. It’s just a snippet of a much broader issue—covered extensively by Judicial Watch for years—involving a government-wide epidemic of waste by public officials traveling on Uncle Sam’s dime.
As in other countless cases, this one involves a federal official, Jill Loftus, who overcharged the government thousands of dollars for her travel, according to a Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General report released this month. Loftus booked more expensive flights on a carrier that gives her personal frequent-flier miles when less-expensive fares were available through a government contract. This violates established government standards and sticks American taxpayers with a hefty tab. As chief of the Navy’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Office Loftus travels a lot to places like Italy, Guam, Spain, Hawaii and Bahrain. Her job is to prevent and respond to sexual assault within the military and help eradicate it through education, compassionate advocacy and just adjudication, according to the Navy’s website.
During her missions Loftus stayed in pricier hotels than the government’s contracted lodging rate, paid extra for more expensive, unauthorized covered airport parking, rented more expensive cars than authorized and failed to turn over receipts for nearly $3,000 in reimbursable expenses. She booked the costlier business class on trains when coach was available and displayed a general disregard for taxpayer dollars, overbilling the government more than $7,000 for the 11 trips analyzed by the DOD watchdog. In short, Loftus repeatedly failed to conduct travel in accordance with DOD and other government standards, the DOD report states. “We also concluded that Ms. Loftus often managed travel based on her personal convenience, preference, and her participation in an airline frequent flyer program,” the DOD IG writes in its report.
It may be tempting to dismiss this as a case involving just a few thousand dollars, but this sort of disregard for public funds is rampant among federal officials when they travel in the course of their duties. That translates into tens of millions of dollars annually, which is no drop in the bucket even for a bloated government with a monstrous budget. Judicial Watch has covered and investigated this for years, exposing a multitude of cases that illustrate the severity of the issue. As far back as 2007 JW reported that the abusive travel spending by employees from more than a dozen federal agencies led to at least $146 million in unauthorized or unjustified expenses. A federal audit revealed that the widespread abuse was the result of employees for years disregarding their agency’s own rules with no consequences, which is still largely the case today.
A few years later JW exposed systematic fraud and mismanagement in the federal travel card program, which issues charge cards to employees that travel more than five times a year. The credit cards are regularly used by workers from a wide range of agencies to buy personal items, travel first-class or simply steal cash from the government. For instance a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employee used the government card to pay $3,700 for laser eye surgery, a State Department staffer took a first-class Hawaiian vacation on the government and a Pentagon official got “reimbursed” for more than a dozen airline tickets—totaling nearly $10,000—that he never bought. That same year JW reported that American taxpayers doled out $13 million for hundreds of federal lawmakers and their families to travel overseas.
Who could forget Air Pelosi, a scandal involving the former House Speaker and her publicly-funded travel escapades? JW uncovered documents that show the veteran California congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi, unscrupulously used military aircraft as her personal airline, racking up a tab of $2,100,744.59 over a two-year period. This includes $101,429.14 for food and alcohol as well as private jet service for her family. One Pelosi congressional party flight that traveled from Washington, DC through Tel Aviv, Israel to Baghdad was stocked with Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Baileys Irish Cream, Maker’s Mark whisky, Courvoisier cognac, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewar’s scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey, Corona beer and several bottles of wine.
More recently, JW has exposed the exorbitant Obama family vacations that have amounted to millions of dollars so far. This includes a summer trip to Africa that cost $8,104,224, the First Family’s 2013 Christmas vacation in Honolulu for $7,781,361.30, a summer jaunt to Martha’s Vineyard for $1,164,268.60 and the First Lady’s 2014 Dublin escapades totaling $7,921,638.66. That was a particularly reprehensible trip because Michelle Obama stayed at a hotel that cost taxpayers an astounding $3,300 per night! Last year JW obtained records showing that Obama travel cost taxpayers $3.1 million for a presidential golfing trip to Palm Springs, California, a New York City family getaway and another Martha’s Vineyard vacation.
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