Trips to swing states ahead of the 2020 election by former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler and former Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia cost taxpayers nearly $60,000 in staff travel and expenses, according to new records obtained by American Oversight.
These documents are the first productions American Oversight has received in response to a series of Freedom of Information Act requests submitted to provide transparency into potential conflict-of-interest concerns raised by the travel patterns of senior Trump officials during the run-up to the election.
Wheeler, for example, took highly publicized trips to Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina in October 2020, with public engagements on a variety of issues ranging from agricultural concerns to deregulating high-powered boat engines.
The EPA spent at least $53,034.66 on travel expenditures for staff supporting Wheeler on such trips — not even including Wheeler’s own travel costs — according to an American Oversight review of documents released in response to our FOIA requests The records show expenses for staffers who provided press relations, logistics, and protection support for Wheeler on trips to Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other swing states.
Separate records from the Department of Labor show $6,722.86 in expenses in the form of travel vouchers for Scalia aide Fernando Espinoza, which refer to “Advance Secy of Labor.”
Such government-funded trips by Trump cabinet officials to key states in the run-up to Election Day raised significant questions about violations of the Hatch Act, the law that bans officials from using government resources to influence elections. Although the trips were ostensibly to conduct official business, their timing — and to locations critical to Trump’s campaign — appeared aimed at buoying support for the president and his reelection bid.