Jet-Setting Postal Service Chairman Racks Up Big Travel Bill

Waste continues with unnecessary flights to Brazil, Qatar

Doha, Qatar / AP
November 4, 2014

The chairman of the agency that regulates the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service has been racking up tens of thousands dollars for exotic foreign trips on taxpayer dime, according to travel records obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Between 2012 and 2013, Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman Ruth Goldway spent over $36,000 on official travel to hot spots such as Rio de Janeiro and Doha—despite internal criticism and prior efforts by lawmakers to reign in her spending.

These trips occurred after a February 2012 Washington Post investigation into Goldway’s travel expenses. The Post reported that she had spent over $70,000 on trips since 1998, prompting both public and private admonishments from Congress.

"When organizations are struggling, good leaders often make a pointed effort of curbing their own expenses as an example," Rep. Darrell Issa told the Post at the time.

Just weeks after the Post story was published, Goldway traveled to Bern, Switzerland for a Universal Postal Union Meeting, according to documents.

The latest travel expenses could be an issue for Goldway, as her term as chairmanship is set to expire at the end of the month.

The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC)n is a standalone agency that regulates postal rates and services for U.S. Postal Service, which has tottered on the verge of bankruptcy in recent years.

Goldway, who has served on the commission since 1998 and as chairman since 2009, is not expected to be reappointed at the end of November. However, she could stay on for an additional year unless the White House appoints a new chair before her term expires.

In addition to the latest travel records, sources tell the Free Beacon that Goldway is scheduled to fly to Switzerland on Nov. 8 to attend a Universal Postal Union meeting. In September, she traveled to Sweden for an international Postal Service conference, and visited Italy for an event in June.

While Goldway’s travel is tied to Postal Service-related meetings, insiders argue that her presence at these events is rarely vital and not tied to the PRC’s mission to regulate postal rates and services. At the September PostExpo conference in Stockholm, Goldway gave a speech on the "historical value of data privacy," a subject that falls outside the purview of the PRC.

Goldway has also drawn criticism for tacking on personal days at the end of her excursions. In September, she allegedly extended her trip to Sweden in order to visit Finland.

"While personal days are paid for with her private funds, documentation detailing Goldway’s trips raise questions about the business importance of the trips," noted Sen. Tom Coburn in his 2013 Wastebook.

A June report issued by the Office of the Inspector General for the PRC outlined additional concerns.

The report noted that one unnamed PRC official—who sources confirmed was Goldway—used a personal credit card to pay for over $18,000 in travel expenses, which were later reimbursed. Such use of a personal credit card is prohibited, and could be used to accrue credit card rewards in airfare mileage or hotel points for the cardholder.

In July, Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee chairman Tom Carper (D., Del.) and ranking member Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) wrote to President Obama asking him to name a new PRC chair to replace Goldway before her term expires.

"Naming your choice for Ms. Goldway’s seat and for the future chairmanship of the Commission well in advance of the expiration of her term will remove uncertainty," the senators wrote. "It will also allow this Committee to continue its work on postal reform with a better sense of who will be implementing it in the coming years."

The White House did not respond to the letter and has yet to name a replacement for Goldway, increasing the possibility that she will serve beyond the end of her term.

The PRC chose not to respond to a request for comment.

"We do not have any comments for your story at this time," said PRC spokesperson Gail Adams. "However, I may reach out to you if any corrections are needed."