U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took 62 out-of-town trips in fiscal year 2011 at a cost of at least $1.45 million, according to a set of disclosures sent to Bloomberg News.
Holder’s travel during the period included an April 2011 trip to Las Vegas, marked business and personal, that cost $46,358. Nine other trips, including visits to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Miami, were labeled “personal,” and cost a combined $169,502. He took an $83,002 flight to Krakow, Poland, to attend the G-6 summit.
Flight costs for seven trips, including journeys to China, Hawaii and Brussels, weren’t provided.
As attorney general, Holder is a “required use” official who is compelled by executive order to use government aircraft for all travel while in office due to “security and communications needs,” according to a February 2013 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.
For personal trips, Holder is required to reimburse the government for the equivalent commercial coach fare, which is often much less than the total trip costs, the GAO said.
Robert Mueller, the outgoing director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who reports to Holder, is another “required use” official identified by the GAO.
Mueller’s 25 trips out of town for the period cost about $1.25 million, including a business swing through China, Indonesia and Hong Kong that totaled $212,283, including per diems. His records also included a personal trip to San Francisco that cost $95,364. The FBI said the director reimbursed the government for a coach fare ticket for the trip. Mueller disclosed his travel records to Bloomberg in April.
Holder got to most of his destinations on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Gulfstream V which, according to GAO, has a flight range of over 6,000 miles, allowing nonstop flights all the way from Washington to Afghanistan.
A Gulfstream V flight to New York on November 13, 2010, cost $15,894. The reimbursement rate was $420.80, according to GAO.
Bloomberg News last year requested the details and costs of out-of-town travel for the heads of 57 major departments in the year ended Sept. 30, 2011, testing President Barack Obama’s pledge to run the most open government in history.
Holder has called speedy responses to public records requests an “essential component” of a transparent government.
Yet it took Holder, whose Justice Department is responsible for monitoring federal compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, more than a year to satisfy the open-records request for his travel records for fiscal 2011.
The GAO report gave aggregate numbers for Holder’s travel without specifying all the locations and the costs.
The Justice Department had posted incomplete records of Holder’s daily schedule since 2009 on its website, without revealing travel costs for any period.
On July 3, the agency’s Justice Management Division issued a CD to Bloomberg listing 51 out-of-town trips Holder took during fiscal 2011.
The vouchers didn’t include travel costs. The department sent those a day later as Bloomberg prepared a story focusing on the AG’s lack of compliance with the law.
“The department treats these records requests as an important priority, and always approaches them with a presumption of openness,” Melanie Ann Pustay, the director of the Office of Information Policy, a division within the Justice Department, said in an e-mail.
The delay in responding to the filings “sets a very bad example for the rest of the government,” said Patrice McDermott, executive director for Open the Government.org, a group that advocates for transparent government. She said it was “shocking” that the Justice Department took a year to respond to “what seems like a pretty reasonable request.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Danielle Ivory in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org