Vice President Biden, Jill Biden, and 11 family members had a grand vacation this summer at a lodge in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. They spent four nights there in August, presumably doing what you do at national parks – hiking, fishing, canoeing, bothering wildlife, and taking in the marvelous views.
And until a reporter inquired about the trip, they hadn’t paid for it.
Time’s Zeke Miller exposed Biden’s sweet deal. Are any other reporters going to investigate this?
Vice President Joe Biden, his wife and 11 other family members spent four nights on vacation this August at a lakeside log cabin overlooking the snowcapped peaks of Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park.
The four-bedroom Brinkerhoff Lodge, where they stayed, is owned and operated by the National Park Service. Under a policy adopted in 1992, after controversy over VIPs using the cabin for vacations, the National Park Service banned purely recreational activities by federal employees at the property, restricting its use to “official purposes.” But in recent years, the park service has interpreted that same rule so broadly as to again allow senior officials to take cheap vacations in Grand Teton with friends and family.
While visiting the park, Biden held no events, kept no public schedule, and his staff initially declined to answer a reporter’s question about where he spent the night. Last week, after TIME uncovered documents confirming his stay at the lodge, Biden’s office said the Vice President planned to personally reimburse the park $1,200 for “renting the Brinkerhoff” for his family’s vacation.
Under park service rules, the lodge is maintained for use by federal employees for “training and official conferences” and for those on “temporary duty in the park.” In practice, the superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, who has discretion over whether to demand payment for the lodge, has interpreted those rules to allow extended family vacations if there is an element of official business involved.
A Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman, Jackie Skaggs, said last week the Biden family visit met the internal criteria, since the Vice President received an official park briefing and tour while staying at the lodge. “With few, if any, exceptions, officials who stay at the Brinkerhoff are given in-depth briefings and/or issue tours,” she wrote in an email to TIME . . .
A spokesperson for the Vice President, who declined to be named, said Biden’s office was still waiting for an invoice from the park two months after the stay, when TIME made inquiries. “The office understood from the park service that personal use would cost the local per diem rate,” the spokesperson said, referring to the a schedule of overnight hotel costs maintained by the General Services Administration for a single hotel room. Biden’s office said the Vice President will now personally pay $1,200 for the four nights, a figure that includes an extra $10 per night for each additional member of his family.
That cost, which assumes that a four-bedroom lodge is comparable to a single hotel room, is far below market rate for other nearby accommodations, especially during peak summer tourism season.
Bolding is mine.
Here are the questions to be asked by an enterprising reporter, should one feel inspired somehow to investigate the Obama administration, which few seem to be.
1. Did Biden understand that all he had to do was tolerate some “briefing” and go for a tour in order to get for himself a taxpayer-subsidized vacation. Presumably, taxpayers had already paid for his travel aboard Air Force 2.
2. Why did it take him two months to pay? Who waits two months to get a bill from their place of lodging without making some kind of inquiry about why they haven’t been billed? Did Biden ever intend to pay anything?
3. Why didn’t Biden pay the market rate for his stay?
4. Did Biden’s office initially refuse to answer questions because he was hiding something?
The Interior Department has launched an investigation into the use of Brinkerhoff by public officials. Others, including former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, used it as well. It’s not clear if the probe will look at Biden’s activities.
But, as they say in monkey house at the zoo, this really smells. Biden runs around the country bashing rich people. Biden himself is well off, yet he seeks as a vacation destination property where he can take advantage of his position in the government to save some money.
I guarantee Zeke didn’t discover everything in the course of assembling his story. Others should get on the case.