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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.

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 Trump's campaign $7.3 million for 965 chartered flights, Hillary Clinton's campaign $7.1 million for 1,317 flights, Bernie Sanders's campaign $2 million for 159 flights and Ben Carson'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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