Mary Beth Buchanan spent more than half of her eight years as U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh on the road, racking up at least 347 trips that cost taxpayers more than $450,000, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Buchanan, a Republican who stepped down in November, a year after a Democrat won the White House, and other U.S. attorneys often were permitted to sign off on their own travel and then get rubber-stamp approval from the Executive Office of United States Attorneys. In March, the Department of Justice under the Obama administration changed those regulations after reviewing travel by all 93 U.S. attorneys. The department now requires approval for out-of-district travel from the director or deputy director of the executive office.
“The previous policies and procedures were admittedly inconsistent,” said department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz. “Changes to the process were made to ensure full compliance with departmental travel policies and procedure and to strengthen controls and oversight of U.S. attorney travel.” Buchanan’s travel included speeches to universities, the American Bar Association and nonprofit groups, as well as trips to the Pennsylvania Society, a group of state politicians and business leaders that meets annually in Manhattan.