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Ben Carson Spent $31K on a Dining Table, and 5 Other Times Trump Cabinet Members Wasted Your Money

Hey, big spenders, spend a little...less of our money on yourselves?

Max PixelMax PixelOn Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials spent $31,561 on a custom hardwood dining table and chairs for Secretary Ben Carson's personal offices, violating a department policy capping office redecoration expenses at $5,000.

A career agency employee alleged she was demoted from a high-level position within HUD after she repeatedly refused to approve expensive office redecoration plans being pushed by Carson's wife, Candy. A department spokesman told reporters that Carson was not aware of the purchase, but did not believe the price was too high, and would not be returning the table.

But Carson isn't the first member of the current cabinet to play fast and loose with government expense accounts. Here's a (partial) receipt for the bill of questionable charges you'll be chipping in for next tax season:

1) Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's Private Jets: Approximately $1 million

Tom Price, perhaps the Trump cabinet's most extravagant spender, resigned from the top job at HHS in October after it was revealed he had racked up more than a million dollars of expenses in private charter and military flights. Those expenses included at least 26 private domestic trips which combined government meetings with significant personal business and leisure, including a lunch with his son in Tennessee and time spent at a resort property in Georgia where he owns a home. After resigning, Price agreed to reimburse the government $51,000.

2) Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt's Fancy Secret Phone Booth: $24,570

In addition to some controversial expensive travel of his own, (which he said was necessary because airline passengers are mean to him) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt paid a contractor $24,570 to install a "privacy booth" in his office. The company apparently offered off-the-shelf standard models, but the EPA opted for a customized version, driving up the cost. No prior EPA boss had such a booth, apparently used to prevent eavesdropping on telephone calls, in the administrator's office. Furthermore, former EPA employees told The Washington Post that the agency already has a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), which are used government-wide to ensure the security of sensitive communications, on another floor in its headquarters.

3) Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin's European Vacation: $122,000

Back in September, it emerged that Shulkin had spent at least half of a 10-day trip to meet with British and Danish officials in Europe sightseeing with his wife. The couple toured Westminster Abbey, attended Wimbledon, and took a cruise on the river Thames. The federal government paid for Shulkin and his wife's flights to and from their trip and provided a per-diem reimbursement for meals and other personal expenses. A report from the V.A. inspector general's office claimed that during the trip, a V.A. employee "effectively acted as a personal travel concierge" to Shulkin and his wife. The Washington Post reported that "Shulkin's trip came less than two weeks after he signed a memo instructing top VA staffers to determine whether 'employee travel in their organization is essential.'"

4) Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's Charter Flights: $72,849

Following revelations about Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price's travel expenses, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke also came under scrutiny when press outlets learned that the department's Inspector General had opened an investigation into his travel expenses as well. The investigators later reported that Zinke had failed to properly document and disclose his official travel, which included a $12,000 flight from Las Vegas to Montana and $14,000 on helicopter flights. The total cost for non-commercial travel on six trips taken by Zinke came to $72,849, according to an Interior Department report last October.

5) Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's Military Jets: $811,800

Like his cabinet counterparts at Interior, HHS, EPA, and the V.A., Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was also investigated by his department's Inspector General (I.G.) over travel expenditures. In seven flights on military jets to foreign and domestic destinations, Mnuchin accrued $811,800 of "official travel" charges. The I.G.'s report ultimately concluded that Mnuchin's travel was legal and had been approved by the White House ahead of time, but worried that his justifications for using military transport were flimsy.

It was after one of these trips, to the U.S. Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky, that Mnuchin's wife, Scottish actress Louise Linton, posted a photograph on Instagram of the couple emerging from a government plane and listed the high-end designers whose clothes she was wearing in the photo. Another user posted a critical comment on the photo, prompting a lengthy, sarcastic reply from Linton in which she implied that the critic was jealous of her wealth. Linton later apologized for the remarks and agreed to reimburse the government for the cost of having accompanied her husband on the flight.

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    At least they nixed Carson's plan to build a pyramid to store his grain in.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin's European Vacation

    Not National Lampoon's best effort.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    But there was that one hilarious scene when Shulkin used the English system to calculate how much bubble bath to use for the foam party in the hotel room.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt paid a contractor $24,570 to install a "privacy booth" in his office""

    What? The cone of silence isn't working anymore?

  • Hugh Akston||

    The Cone of Silence is transparent, so people can still see you masturbating.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    He also likes to cast Mirror Image, so anyone watching sees 2d4 Pruitts going at it and can't tell which one is the real one.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Look, when Carson's pal Jesus drops by, do you really want him to be eating at some cheap stock dining table?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Huh. Jesus looks way too much like my schizophrenic brother-in-law there.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I prefer kenny loggins Jesus

    https://goo.gl/images/OYuHc6

  • ||

    He probably would appreciate the fine carpentering.

  • Brandybuck||

    I don't know about Carson's pal Jesus, but my pal Jesus routinely ate at less than affluent dining tables.

  • The Last American Hero||

    You think finding a table that seats 14 is easy? And having one that is up to the standards of a carpenter's eye isn't cheap.

    It's OK though, since they'll save money by only eating some bread and sharing a few bottles of 2 buck chuck.

  • CE||

    And someone is always losing your silver and drinking cups so you have to try for centuries to track them down again.

  • dave b.||

    What is Jesus doing with Teddy Pendergrass?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Jesus has to have something hefty to turn over in anger. Word is Carson also wanted to install a boxing ring so Jesus can fight some moneylenders.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Remember the good old days, when FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and his boyfriend, the ever-stunning Clyde Tolson, went on two-week vacations together twice a year, staying at guest quarters in FBI offices strategically located near race tracks in Florida and California and nobody gave a damn?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    BEST D*YS EVAH!

  • Bubba Jones||

    Best *ays ever?

  • Ariki||

    OG's?

  • Maddow's Fleshlight||

    "Remember the good old days, when FBI director J. Edgar Hoover "

    Sorry, no, I'm not that old. Maybe try the AARP message board?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    It happened even if its not on Instagram or Pinterest.

  • Citizen X - #6||

  • Hugh Akston||

    One of the many things I love about Mike M. is the boundless confidence he has to denounce Reason's lack of coverage without even checking first.

  • Hugh Akston||

    He's lovable like a lobotomized goat constantly bleating and walking into things. You have to hold his head so he doesn't drown in his own water trough.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That was a single trip and the Obama's first term.

    There were many trips and terms after that.

  • ||

    I think they did. I hope. If memory serves me right.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    It's okay - i only post links in American HTML format, Canadian computers have trouble reading them.

  • Hugh Akston||

    In Canada they Use EhTML.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    EhTML sends a SORRY response after each GET request, and, because of it, consistently runs ooot of memory.

  • TLBD||

    My company paid for me to go to training in a nice area. I did my training, and also went fishing, saw the sights, drove the rental car around, went to awesome restaurants, etc. I also flew my wife down and she stayed in the same hotel that the company paid for. I even told them and they had absolutely no issue with that, and why would they?

    Most of the things on this list are asinine. I don't expect people on a business trip to just sit in their hotel room twiddling their thumbs during their down time.

    Carson's desk is certainly questionable, though.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Good for you and your company. If your salary and perks aren't funded by taxation, however, that's not really a comparable situation.

  • TLBD||

    Are you saying the government owns every second of your life while you are traveling for them, even when your work day is over?

    Because that is what it sounds like you are saying.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I'm saying that government employees have, at the very least, a responsibility not to spend taxpayers' money (which, let's not forget, is extorted at gunpoint) on frivolous shit.

  • ||

    Are you saying the government owns every second of your life while you are traveling for them, even when your work day is over?

    Because that is what it sounds like you are saying.

    I was actually going to say that it sounds like there's a lot of room between what you're saying and what Reason is claiming or bemoaning above.

    If your company paid for your wife's airline ticket, I would totally understand if the shareholders were bitching.

  • TLBD||

    If your company paid for your wife's airline ticket, I would totally understand if the shareholders were bitching.

    No, I paid for it.

    I'm saying that government employees have, at the very least, a responsibility not to spend taxpayers' money (which, let's not forget, is extorted at gunpoint) on frivolous shit.

    Sure, but giving the VA guy shit over sight-seeing is just dumb.

    The other travel expenses are mostly inflated I'm sure due to being non-commercial and for security. It's like people bitching that Trump and Obama spend millions of dollars on vacations or golfing. Completely misrepresents the facts.

  • ||

    Private versus Public. Pas la meme chose in my humble view.

    A private company is not, generally, using tax payer dollars. Civil servants are not entitled to frivolous stuff not necessary to their role as such. A politician doesn't need to take his entire family to India like we saw with Justin Trudeau - and then make an international, embarrassing mess of it - on our dime.

    31k for a desk is irresponsible when you can get a very good one for FAR LESS.

  • TLBD||

    Agreed on the desk, and as far as family, I don't know. It really depends.

    My point is that sight seeing is just that. Now if the gov is paying for the tickets to the museum, then yeah, that shouldn't happen.

    If you're Trump or Trudeau, and you're flying AF1, or whatever Canada's shitty equivalent is, the extra weight in fuel costs is really the only difference. Also, security, but the fact that we have to pay for people's security shouldn't stop them from being able to be humans. It is just a cost we have to live with if we don't want our politicians getting kidnapped.

  • ||

    Also, security, but the fact that we have to pay for people's security shouldn't stop them from being able to be humans. It is just a cost we have to live with if we don't want our politicians getting kidnapped.

    I agree to half of this. We shouldn't be letting our politicians get kidnapped. At the same time, if they're at such a high risk for violence, they shouldn't be at a tennis match where practically anybody could just jump out of the stands and stab someone. It's not like we aren't paying these guys enough to come back later after their term is up or provide our security on their trips or whatever.

  • TLBD||

    Cabinet members make 200k per year salary, I believe.

    /shrug

    I think the answer is that they should be treated like any average business traveler that makes 200k a year. Those rules should be in place and clear. If they break them, they should get in trouble for it. The use of government planes vs commercial should depend on the circumstances. Making it sound like it costs more because circumstances called for a government plane or because of their security costs misrepresents the severity, and it is a trick that is often used by our media to disparage both Ds and Rs alike when they often do not deserve it. Sure, many of these people probably do deserve it for other reasons, but travel expenses are probably not where we should be focusing on cutting waste.

  • ||

    Private versus Public.

    And, again, this is exceedingly extravagant even by private standards. A week's worth of morning training sessions followed by evenings fishing on your own dime is one thing, a one day meeting or training session and an expense report for more than a week of sight-seeing is a very different proposition.

    I've been in positions where things like greens fees and stuff are openly compensated, but you better believe that any accountant that let a weeks worth of fees on a three day trip slip by was risking their job.

  • ||

    Like $8000 for a sable hat?

  • ||

    No, I paid for it.
    ...
    Sure, but giving the VA guy shit over sight-seeing is just dumb.

    Again, I didn't get the impression that the issue was with personal sight-seeing as much as a 1-day conference with flights comped by the employer/taxpayer took 10 days and included per diem allotments for him, his spouse, and, presumably, expenses for the people performing concierge services.

    A 1 day or 1 weekend trip, with the spouse, Wimbledon on the side, I could see how the bitching might be unjustified. However, I'm pretty sure if your 1 day training session turned into 10 and you turned in 10 days worth of expenses, your employer would give you shit about it.

  • TLBD||

    I didn't see the article mention anything about it only being for a 1 day conference. Is it in the alt-text? If that is the case, then I agree with your thoughts.

  • ||

    It was in the linked article that now no longer works, it didn't specifically dictate the itinerary or the amount of time, but indicated that the overwhelming majority of the time was not the meetings and/or they didn't happen every day.

    Also, admittedly backing up a step, WTF do the Danes and Brits have to do with the VA?

  • TLBD||

    Also, admittedly backing up a step, WTF do the Danes and Brits have to do with the VA?

    I would hope it for our veterans buried overseas.

    But, I honestly do not know.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    You probably could have gotten the training at your office. All the money your company spent should have been treated as taxable income to you.

  • TLBD||

    You probably could have gotten the training at your office.

    No one at my office is qualified to train me.

    All the money your company spent should have been treated as taxable income to you.

    Not how it works, bud. Perhaps you could make an argument on the rental car, but it is a flat rate, was used for its purpose, and I paid for the gas. There would be no more tax to pay on it than what the company already paid.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "Most of the things on this list are asinine. I don't expect people on a business trip to just sit in their hotel room twiddling their thumbs during their down time."

    I want your travel job. Mine requires 6 harrowing 18 hour days in a server room, followed by a hastily eaten snack from a vending machine and a restless night in the hotel room.

    Sights... restaurants... right.

  • TLBD||

    Ha, you really don't want my travel job. The travel training, however isn't bad, since training is only 8 hours a day. But I only have to do that every year or two on average.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    All of my friends and family think I have this glamorous job because it takes me to China, the UK, the Netherlands, and of course, the most exotic locale of all: Burlington, Ontario. (Did you know they roll up the streets at night in Burlington?)

    Everyone asks me, "What'd you do and see?"

    "I saw a rack and a lot of blinking lights, then a stiff drink at the airport on the way out."

  • Bubba Jones||

    My company will cover my hotel room and meals if I want to spend the weekend and the resulting fare is low enough to cover the spread.

    But I have a family so I never do that. I suck at this travel gig.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I can stay extra days, but the hotel and meals for those days is on me. I may start doing that so I can actually take in the excitements in and around Burlington.

  • TLBD||

    Haha, I feel for you. I get the same thing. If I do find myself with free time in one of those places, I spend it sleeping.

    Though, tbh I see first hand the life of a field tech, and I don't envy it. I'm gone 6 months out of the year for my job and most of the field techs I know are gone for 8-9 and then have to work in the office when they're not out.

  • ||

    One rack full of blinking lights is how I would picture a data center in Burlington, Ontario.

  • commentguy||

    A key bit of back story on #3 - Shulkin falsely claimed his wife had won an award so that she could go along on the trip, even to the point of faking emails. The ratio of personal days to work days makes it seem probable that the government business was really a pretext to justify a taxpayer funded holiday.

  • BYODB||


    2) Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt's Fancy Secret Phone Booth: $24,570


    Cone's of silence ain't cheap, and neither are those fancy shoe phones...

  • Mark22||

    Ben Carson Spent $31K on a Dining Table, and 5 Other Times Trump Cabinet Members Wasted Your Money

    That's peanuts compared to how government wasted my money, on wars, bombs, drones, useless infrastructure, and "entitlements" (aka vote buying on a massive scale).

  • ||

    True. But it's all waste. If you can't clean the small stuff, don't be surprised when it morphs into what you just described.

  • Mark22||

    If you can't clean the small stuff, don't be surprised when it morphs into what you just described.

    You're thinking like the people who order huge, fat-laden restaurant meals with a Diet Coke and wonder why they are morbidly obese.

    "Cleaning [up] the small stuff" is a distraction and window dressing in order to have to avoid dealing with the big stuff.

    Forget about Ben Carson's dining room table.

  • Ron||

    "Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt paid a contractor $24,570 to install a "privacy booth" in his office"

    Does he think he's a special secret agent and CHAOS is spying on him

  • TLBD||

    Have you met anyone who works for the EPA? Scott Pruitt's phone booth was by far the most necessary thing on this list.

  • ||

    Does he think he's a special secret agent and CHAOS is spying on him

    In all fairness somebody probably is spying on him.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    In a similar vein, I figure the Democrat Party Establishment is wasting $100 of mine for every minute Nancy Pelosi is allowed to continue breathing....

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Wasting taxpayer money is outrageous but acting like this example is a rare example is pure TDS.

  • CE||

    The US federal government passed the ten-billion-dollars per day line a few years back....

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Which goes to show frivolous government spending can't be fixed by "putting the right people in charge". As long as they can take whatever money they want from us at gunpoint they're gonna spend it.

  • creech||

    I love how easy it is to spend other peoples' money!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You have to spend budgets to cut budgets.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Draining the swamp by paying exorbitant sums to send buckets of swampwater on international junkets!

  • ||

    Who will guard the swamp drainers?

  • CE||

    Hey, Al Gore has to travel by jet and SUV to save the environment sometimes.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    You cannot break the bank without breaking the bank.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Ok. The private flights are bullshit. But unless the government bought the Wimbledon tickets and the cruise, that Travel would be consistent with my corporate policy. If he is coordinating meetings with multiple governments it shouldn't be a surprise or a big deal if they aren't all perfectly back to back or if he wants to take a vacation day in between.

    Did the government pay for his wife to fly?

    I also think the $30k table is excessive but it probably isn't any more than he spent on his own furniture out of his own pocket.

    I would need more information before I am outraged by the privacy booth. Depends on how eavesdroppy the layout is and how ugly the off the shelf solutions were. Dude probably just wanted to be able to close his door and have a phone call without everyone on the floor being able to hear him.

  • The Last American Hero||

    As noted above. The EPA staff is effectively Green Peace and Sierra Club members. He needs that booth unless he wants every one of his conversations to wind up on Facebook Live.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Every one of his conversations is done under the auspices of the United States government and should be public record as a matter of course

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    That's what hillary said, right?

  • Bubba Jones||

    Let them file an FOIA request?

  • Echospinner||

    Was there a $5000 chair? Does such a thing exist?

    Neurosurgeon Carson should know about sciatica, biomechanics, and sitting working from that chair for 8+ hours at a workstation.

    I would love to see this chair.

  • Mark22||

    Carson's SAT scores were in "the low 90th percentile" and his GPA (Yale psychology!) was "fairly respectable". That makes him somewhat above average intelligence for the US population, but probably below average for people with graduate degrees. That's also how he comes across: personable, skilled at what he does, but not particularly smart. So, I wouldn't really take his advice on much of anything other than neurosurgical procedures.

  • General_Tso||

    So NOW the New York Times is worried about government expenditures!?!

  • Georgfelis||

    2) The EPA cabinet secretary can certainly justify an area where he can make phone calls without the largely pre-Trump office being able to listen in. That's a no-brainer. And no, a SCIF doesn't count on multiple levels. A SCIF is for *classified* material, and to take your cell phone into one to make a call… No. Just, no.

    3) That's a little less (but not a lot) bothersome when you consider that a government employee on government time is permitted to extend a government trip for personal time, *IF* the extension doesn't cost the government extra, such as airline tickets costing more for the extended visit, etc… As an example, Sec. Bob flies to India for a three-day summit, stays in the hotel, meets with the other high muckity-mucks, and stays on government time and money until time to go home. At which point he switches to personal time (and money) to take a planned four day vacation, sees the sites (on personal time and money), then returns home on government time on a plane ticket that costs no more than if he had left at the end of the summit. It's a win for the government and the employee. Admittedly, this case is trouble, because he did not stay within the clearly marked lines, but there *are* lines that non-governmental types normally do not see.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Yeah, the travel extension seems like the kind of complaint someone would make if they have never traveled on business.

    The use of private charters because commercial is "icky" ... well ...

  • loveconstitution1789||

    To be fair, the government restricts where you can buy items from. On that note, these bureaucrats waste our taxpayer money and this is another example of that.

    I am just glad the lefty media was all over the Clintons stealing furniture from the White House, all the lefty politicians who order outrageous office items, and of course all the free trips the media get at taxpayer expense on Air Force One.

  • CE||

    At least travel costs are job related. Just set some limits. Why is HUD buying furniture for anyone? The HUD director gets paid a fat salary, he can buy his own furniture.

  • Mark22||

    Why is HUD buying furniture for anyone?

    Office furniture is generally purchased by the employer.

    But buying nice furniture for cabinet level positions is pretty much the norm across the globe.

    Personally, I'd prefer to see US cabinet members use sturdy military-style steel furniture and see visiting foreign dignitaries squirm on those hard chairs, but that's just me I suppose.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Trump supporters are the gullible yahoos who buy jets for televangelists, made Slim Jims a retail success, send envelopes of cash to faith healers, make right-wing direct mailers wealthy, and are arming for the revolution because all bets are off after the libs put a Kenyan Muslim in the White House.

    Liberals, libertarians, moderates, and even the RINOs might be bothered by this, but the goobers who constitute Trump's base will find a way to make this about Hillary, Marx, and murderous immigrants.

  • Mark22||

    Trump supporters are the gullible yahoos who...

    Well, in my case, who... voted for Obama. Quite gullible indeed. In my defense, McCain probably was worse than Obama.

    I didn't vote for Trump, but I may well do so next time around, because the alternatives are far worse.

  • shawn_dude||

    Oh?

    What is the election going to look like in 2020? My crystal ball is on the fritz again...

  • Fed Up Conservative||

    Geee, less than $2M. Think I'll take that over the BILLIONS wasted on Solyndra, Planned Abortionhood, plane loads of cash to our enemies, outlandish vacations, on and on ad nauseum. Leftists are disgusting liars who need to shut up and ride in the back. This is AMERICA, not Cuba. MAGA!!!

  • commentguy||

    Fed up of facts? The money given to Iran was not taxpayer money, it was Iranian money being returned to its owners. As for vacations, perhaps you are unaware that Trump has also been criticized for the cost of all his trips to Mar a Lago.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    These numbers are meaningless if we cannot compare them with those of past administrations, and with companies of the same size (e.g., companies which have roughly the same revenue as HUD, in the case of Ben Carson's wife's table).

  • shawn_dude||

    So much for swamp-draining.

    Did anyone think a bunch of rich fat cat oligarchs were going to roll into DC and start living frugally?

    Seriously?

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