WASHINGTON -- The Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation of the travel practices of Lauro Cavazos while he was President Bush's secretary of education -- a probe posing potential new embarrassment for an administration already struggling with controversy over travel by high-level officials.
According to several officials, the Cavazos investigation, begun last year, focuses on whether he used "frequent flier" credits piled up on official travel to obtain free airline tickets for his wife to accompany him. Regulations require federal employees to turn over all such travel bonuses to the government.
Disclosure of the Cavazos probe came as the White House announced yesterday that Bush was imposing new restrictions on the travel of his chief of staff, John Sununu, whose 77 trips on military aircraft during the past two years triggered a review of White House travel policy.
Sununu was instrumental in Cavazos' sudden ouster from the Cabinet last December.
Cavazos, the first Latino ever to serve in a president's Cabinet, could not be reached for comment yesterday. A former professor and college administrator, he was named to the Cabinet by former President Reagan in 1988, then reappointed by Bush.