Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Leavitt cheats taxpayers again


Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt defended his extensive use
in recent months of a jet leased to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention for emergency use. Leavitt's explanation for his use of the jet
occurred at a hearing Wednesday of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Moments earlier, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., had accused Leavitt of using the jet
to "do public relations for the president" on the new drug benefit. Leavitt,
however, said he used the plane in an appropriate manner, and he thanked
lawmakers for making it available. He said he simply could not have overseen the
implementation of the new benefit, plus help prepare states for a potential flu
pandemic, without the use of the plane.

Since January, Leavitt has taken the jet on 19 trips to visit more than 90
cities, said his spokeswoman, Christina Pearson.

During the same period, CDC officials said they had used the aircraft to
respond to three emergencies and conduct three training exercises.

The Journal-Constitution reported that during two emergencies, the CDC was
forced to use another plane because Leavitt was using the Gulfstream.

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