Watchdog: Secret Service overpaid 2016 campaigns $4 million for air travel

The U.S. Secret Service overpaid millions of dollars when reimbursing presidential campaigns for plane travel during the 2016 election, according to a new government watchdog report.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in its report released Thursday that the Secret Service overpaid presidential campaigns in 2016 by an estimated $3.9 million when reimbursing the campaigns for seats used by special agents on chartered flights.

The GAO explained that the agency’s longstanding policy is to pay the lower of two fares for flights: the lowest first-class airfare on a commercial flight, or a pro-rated fare for agents flying on chartered planes.

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According to the report, the Secret Service discovered eight months before Election Day that it had been using an improper formula for calculating travel costs by only using the pro-rated fares, and failed to correct the billing procedure. 

Since the report’s publication, the Secret Service says it has “completed required corrective actions to ensure miscalculations are not repeated.”

The Secret Service spent a total of $58 million on travel expenses during the 2016 presidential campaign, with $17.1 million of that going to campaigns to reimburse them for agents’ seats on flights, according to the GAO report.

The agency paid President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s campaign $7.3 million for 965 chartered flights, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE’s campaign $7.1 million for 1,317 flights, Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE’s campaign $2 million for 159 flights and Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonTrump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan says there will be consequences from fraying US-China relations; WHO walks back claims on asymptomatic spread of virus The Hill’s Morning Report – Dems, GOP already headed in different directions on policing reforms MORE’s campaign over $615,000 for 107 flights between early 2015 and Election Day.

While the GAO report gave the dollar amounts it reimbursed each campaign, it remains unclear how much each campaign was overpaid.

The GAO set June 30 as a date by which the Secret Service should seek repayment from the campaigns.

–Updated at 3:42 p.m.

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