Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is less than pleased with Vice President Mike Pence for using government travel to attend and prematurely leave Sunday’s Indianapolis Colts game.
CREW sent several tweets expressing outrage that Pence would spend taxpayer money to attend Sunday’s game of his hometown team, the Colts, and a ceremony honoring former quarterback Peyton Manning. After several of the visiting San Francisco 49ers players knelt during the national anthem, Pence left the game in what many called a political stunt.
“CAN WE JUST MAKE IT THROUGH A WEEKEND WITHOUT THIS ADMINISTRATION ABUSING TAXPAYER DOLLARS WITH JET TRAVEL!?” the watchdog group tweeted, a reference to numerous Trump Cabinet officials sticking taxpayers with enormous bills for traveling on government jets and chartered flights instead of commercial travel.
CNN reporter Kevin Liptak pointed out that the expense to get Pence to the game from Las Vegas and then to California was likely a large cost to taxpayers.
Lavish travel spending under the Trump administration has come under scrutiny in the last few weeks. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned after his use of chartered and military flights reportedly cost taxpayers more than $1 million. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin racked up more than $800,000 for travel aboard military aircraft. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt also traveled on charter and military jets, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took a $12,000 flight in a private plane.
Reporters who were with Pence’s group on Sunday were told before the event that there might be an early departure from the game, suggesting the vice president’s national anthem exit was planned. An unnamed Pence official told NBC News on Sunday that the vice president planned to leave if kneeling occurred.
San Francisco 49ers Eric Reid, one of the first players to join then-teammate Colin Kaepernick in kneeling protests in 2016, pointed out that Pence surely expected 49ers players to kneel on Sunday.
“So this looks like a PR stunt to me,” Reid told a pool of reporters on Sunday, referring to Pence’s walkout. “He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew that we were probably going to do it again. This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple of things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts. Based on the information I have, that’s the assumption I’ve made.”
Reid also noted that Pence apparently hadn’t attended a Colts game since 2014, as the vice president shared a photo on Sunday from a game three years ago.
Language has been adjusted to reflect the full name of the watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.