On Thursday, February 25 of 2016, Vice President Joe Biden attended the annual U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue in Mexico City, a trade summit designed to discuss issues between the two countries. In attendance with Biden was a small group of government officials, including Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Along with this modest delegation were a support staff and the usual coterie of Secret Service and organizational personnel.
The lodging venue for the group was the Intercontinental Presidente Hotel in the Polanco District of the city, a 42-story luxury tower boasting suites with panoramic views of the city, blackout shades, rain showers and televisions in most of the bathrooms.
The hotel’s website highlights the proximity of luxury boutiques such as Cartier and Chanel on the affluent Presidente Masaryk nearby. Seven restaurants, including a French brasserie, an American steakhouse, a British tearoom, a high-end Italian bistro, a modern Mexican canteen, an a la carte buffet and a gin and tonic bar serve guests.
The hotel also offers spa treatments, including scrubs, body wraps, massages, beauty treatments, steam baths, foot reflexology, pedicures, manicures and waxing. The group reserved a total of 260 hotel rooms and meeting spaces, at a cost to taxpayers of $538,528.65, despite Vice President Biden only spending one night in the venue.
Unfortunately, excess like this is all too common…
According to the State Department, one of the reasons why the expenses were so high was because of last-minute booking and changes to reservations. As the Department explained, vendor contracts can’t be signed until all government agencies confirm dates, times and names of traveling personnel.
Generally speaking, agencies must forward funds and itinerary confirmations in advance in case of cancelations. When multiple agencies are involved, coordinating everyone’s schedules can be a massive logistical headache.
Records show the Mexican trip involved no-bid vendor contracts. The State Department had ruled out the Sheraton, the Marriott, the Four Seasons and the St. Regis hotels as not being adequate for the group’s needs. Documents confirm the State Department paid $243.95 per night for each single room at the Intercontinental, a high price for Mexico City.
As regards the outcome of the Mexican trip, attendant press recorded no results of the Dialogue other than Biden confessing that he felt a need to apologize to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on behalf of the United States for a number of Donald Trump’s recent remarks on immigration.
This Mexican trip is hardly the only time Biden has abused the taxpayer’s dollar or a lack of supervision. In fact, a comprehensive book by journalist Ronald Kessler titled “The First Family Detail” claims the Vice President has a predilection for skinny dipping on his travels, even in front of female Secret Service agents. Kessler had to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request just to get complete details on the Vice President’s trips because of stonewalling by the Secret Service and the Air Force regarding his travel documents.
The Mexican outing expenses didn’t include ground transportation, flight costs for staff, or operating costs of Air Force Two, the Boeing 757 that transports the Vice President. In fact, some administration insiders say that Biden uses his 757, which requires an 18-person crew, like a taxi service, at a cost of $22,000 per hour.
The Vice President takes trips nearly every weekend, often to play golf or to fly home to Delaware and back, a jaunt that could easily be accomplished via ground transportation at a much lower price, even when accompanying security personnel and vehicles are included.
Secret Service agents have taken to calling these excursions “The Wilmington Shuttle.” Sometimes, the 757 flies on a return flight empty when it’s needed elsewhere, wasting more aircraft and crew time. Kessler’s book claims that occasionally Biden has gone back and forth to Wilmington the same day just to pick up his wife.
When the Vice President is playing golf at Andrews Air Force Base, the 757 sits on the tarmac with its crew waiting for the Vice President to finish. Each time he travels, over 20 rooms must be booked just for his security detail. Multiply those numbers by 50 weekends a year, and that starts to be some very serious capital.
Not only does the jet cost money, but to get back and forth to the plane, Biden typically flies in a Marine helicopter from his 9,150-square-foot government-provided official residence, a three-story mansion overlooking Washington’s Massachusetts Avenue featuring a pool, pool house and gym. Five Navy stewards attend the Vice President’s family at the official residence, taking care of all cooking, laundry, shopping and cleaning.
By any stretch of the imagination, these huge expenditures are excessive, and they characterize the Vice President’s laissez-faire attitude when it comes to travel expenses and lavish spending. It should be noted that by contrast, when Biden was a U.S. Senator, he made the journey to and from Wilmington via Amtrak and proudly crowed about this transport to the press. Amtrak even named its Wilmington station after him.
Most ironically of all, it was Biden who President Obama boasted would be in charge of government cost cutting at the beginning of his second term, with the President saying that the VP would “hunt down and eliminate misspent tax dollars in every agency and department across the federal government.”
At the time, Biden stated in an email that he was going to be “the new sheriff in town” and that “it’s a no-brainer to stop spending taxpayer dollars on things that benefit nobody.” When inquiries were directed to Biden’s office about these statements and the huge costs he’s been incurring, Biden had no comment.
With such largesse’s going unchecked, it may be time for the Government Accounting Office or other bureaucratic oversight organizations to publicly release all figures for vice presidential and presidential spending on travel and entertainment expenses, so the American people can see for themselves exactly where their hard-earned dollars are going. Indeed, the above figures may be only the tip of the iceberg as far as such expenditures are concerned.