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    Minted: the rich guys in Trump’s cabinet who can’t resist public money

    The revelation that the US housing secretary, Ben Carson, and his wife selected a $31,000 dining set for his office at taxpayer expense has caused outrage. But Carson is far from alone among Donald Trump’s cabinet in causing controversy over use of public money. Here are the most high-profile examples.
    Ben Carson
    The housing and urban development (Hud) secretary had managed to keep his head down, more or less, since being put in charge of the sprawling department that deals with America’s under-funded public housing stock. But things changed for the ex-brain-surgeon last month when it emerged that Hud had agreed to spend $165,000 on “lounge furniture” for its Washington headquarters, in addition to a $31,000 dining set selected by Carson and his wife for his office.
    News of the expensive decor spending emerged after the Guardian revealed that a senior Hud employee had complained of facing retaliation after she said the budget broke the law. She said she had been told: “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair.” The report emerged as the administration was proposing to cut $6.8bn, or 14%, of Hud’s annual budget.
    Steve Mnuchin
    The treasury secretary, a former Wall Street executive and Hollywood producer who is worth as much as $35m, managed to run up bills in excess of $800,000 in his first six months in office for travel on military jets. It’s true that Mnuchin withdrew a request for a US air force jet for his honeymoon in Scotland, France and Italy, after marrying the Scottish actor Louise Linton last summer at the Trump International hotel near the White House. But the damage to his reputation was already done – not least by a picture of Linton descending from a government plane the couple had taken to Kentucky, where Mnuchin visited Fort Knox and they viewed the solar eclipse.
    After the trip, Mnuchin’s wife caused a brouhaha when she posted a picture of herself on Instagram exiting the government aircraft with her husband, notingher designer clothing and accessories. “Great #daytrip to #Kentucky!” Linton wrote, listing #rolandmouret, #hermesscarf, #tomford sunnies, #valentino. When a woman from Oregon commented online: “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable”, Linton responded: “Aw!!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable! Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol. Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?”
    Treasury officials have defended the travel and the department’s inspector general has said it was within the law.
    Scott Pruitt
    The environment secretary has said he has to travel first-class because of threats from members of the public who object to his climate-change-denying, regulation-slashing mission in government. Last summer he flew first-class on the short hop from Washington to New York for brief media appearances after pullingAmerica out of the Paris climate agreement.
    But last week he said he was considering flying in the back of the plane, despite having complained of “unprecedented” threats and “incidents” on planes and in airports after he was appointed. One person yelled: “Scott Pruitt, you’re fucking up the environment,” an EPA staffer told CNN, although this was apparently at the airport in Atlanta, rather than in a plane.
    He also spent as much as $43,000 on a soundproof “privacy booth” inside his office to prevent eavesdropping on his phone calls and $9,000 for biometric locks and to have his office swept for listening devices. Earlier this month it was reported that he used $6,500 in public money to hire a private media firm with strong Republican ties to help produce a report promoting his accomplishments.
    David Shulkin
    The secretary of veterans affairs, who joined the department during the Obama administration, is reportedly wobbling on his perch over complaints that he asked a member of his security detail to accompany him to a branch of Home Depot, the home improvements chain, and then obliged the person to carry his furniture purchases into his home for him.
    Last month, the inspector general released a blistering report finding ethical violations in Shulkin’s trip last July to Denmark and Britain that mixed business with pleasure, including a trip to Wimbledon and a cruise down the Thames.
    Ryan Zinke
    The interior secretary is from Montana, deep in cowboy country, and is famous for riding into Washington on his horse Tonto to take up his post. But when he wanted to go riding with the vice-president, Mike Pence, he took a government-funded helicopter – one of three such journeys in 2017 that cost a total of $53,000 of public money. In addition, Zinke, who is in favor of oil, gas, coal and uranium extraction on spectacular public wilderness lands out west, took a charter flight to the US Virgin Islands. He has been rebuked by the department watchdog for failing to keep proper records of his travel expenses and to show clearly who paid for his wife to accompany him on work trips.
    Tom PriceThe health and human services secretary was forced to resign last September following revelations that he used at least $400,000 and probably more than $1m in taxpayer funds on private and military flights for himself and his staff. As a Georgia congressman, Price was a fiscal conservative, railing against the use of private jets by members of Congress. Lawmakers are normally expected to use commercial flights. When Trump told reporters “I’m not happy, OK?” about Price’s spending, it was the death knell.

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