Politics

What Taxpayers Pay When Eric Holder Uses Government Jets For Personal Trips

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

On a pleasant Saturday this summer, Eric Holder, his daughters, their boyfriends and two security officers boarded a government-owned Gulfstream and jetted off to New York for the Belmont Stakes Thoroughbred horse race.

Even for personal trips like this, the attorney general doesn’t fly commercial. For security reasons, Holder — like other top government officials — flies a government plane, though is required to reimburse taxpayers for airfare.

According to records obtained by The Daily Caller through a Freedom of Information Act request, Holder is getting pretty good deal here — especially when he flies a government-owned Gulfstream V jet.

That one day trip to Elmont, N.Y. on June 7, according to records provided to TheDC by the Department of Justice, ended up costing the government $14,440.

But Holder only had to reimburse the government $955 for flying him and four passengers to the final leg of the Triple Crown horse races that day.

That’s because he only has to pay the equivalent cost of a coach commercial airline ticket for each non-law enforcement passenger — not the total cost to charter the plane.

“The attorney general wrote a check payable to the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $955.00 to cover round trip airfare” for each passenger, the documents provided by the Department of Justice said.

During his trip, Holder and his entourage met with Ron Turcotte, the retired race jockey who famously rode Triple Crown winner Secretariat in 1973. The attorney general also stopped for photos with spectators, including with one attorney decked out in a seersucker suit and bow-tie.

Gulfstream V

While the Department of Justice declined to identify his travel companions that day, Holder’s daughters, Brooke and Maya, went on the trip, and brought along two friends. A photo taken that day shows the two young women, wearing summer dresses, and their male companions, in suits.

“The names of family members and personal guests are withheld…” Department of Justice general counsel Arthur E. Gary wrote in a letter to TheDC accompanying the documents. “On balance, I have determined that the privacy interest of the individuals outweighs the public interest in disclosure of this information.”

A spokesman for Holder has not returned requests for additional details.

The Daily Caller first inquired about the Belmont Stakes trip in June. At the time, TheDC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice. On Aug. 8, the agency provided copies of documents detailing the trip.

A government policy known as OMB circular A-126 lays out the rules about the personal travel of government officials.

“The government shall be reimbursed the appropriate share of the full coach fare for any portion of the time on the trip spent on political activities,” it says.

According to the military, the Gulfstream V “is an all-weather, long-range, high speed aircraft powered by two Rolls-Royce BR 710-A2 turbofan engines with thrust reversers. The aircraft has an executive compartment with accommodations for six passengers and a staff compartment with accommodations for eight passengers.”

Holder’s usage of Gulfstream jets has made news before: The New York Post reported that Holder in 2010 reimbursed the government $421 for a $15,000 flight.

And last year, the Government Accountability Office released a report saying these government jets used by Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller were meant to be used for counter-terrorism actions.

“These luxury jets were supposedly needed for counterterrorism, but it turns out that they were used almost two-thirds of the time for jet-setting executive travel,” Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley said. “Nobody disputes that the Attorney General and the FBI Director should have access to the secure communications, but, for instance, there’s no reason they can’t take a less expensive mode of transportation, or cut their personal travel.”

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