De­spite se­quester, rent checks still flow­ing to Bi­den

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JIM MCELHATTON

As se­ques­tra­tion loomed in Fe­bru­ary, Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den made a sym­bolic ges­ture to save tax­pay­ers money, of­fer­ing to travel to his home in Delaware by Am­trak rather than fly on a mil­i­tary plane as the Se­cret Ser­vice pre­ferred.

“I’ve got to take the train now. It’s cheaper than fly­ing,” he ex­plained, lament­ing the in­con­ve­nience he was en­dur­ing dur­ing tough fis­cal times.

But away from the cam­eras, Mr. Bi­den had no prob­lem col­lect­ing, as he has for years, the same $2,200 a month he charges the Se­cret Ser­vice for its use of a small build­ing on his Delaware prop­erty as a stag­ing area to pro­tect his fam­ily.

There was no re­duc­tion in rent, even though many fed­eral agen­cies were fac­ing spend­ing cuts of 7.8 per­cent or higher dur­ing the se­quester and the Se­cret Ser­vice pub­licly warned it might have to cut back its se­cu­rity work be­cause of the belt-tight­en­ing.

In fact, doc­u­ments ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Times show the Se­cret Ser­vice re­cently ex­tended the un­usual con­tract for another six months, through March, at the same rate it has been pay­ing since 2011.

The White House makes no apolo­gies for the vice pres­i­dent’s rental agree­ment. “The cot­tage was an ex­ist­ing rental prop­erty at the time the Se­cret Ser­vice signed its lease,” Ken­dra Barkoff, a White House spokes­woman, said.

The lat­est pur­chase or­der to­tals $13,200 for six months’ rent. The gov­ern­ment’s online spend­ing data­base makes no men­tion of Mr. Bi­den’s role as vice pres­i­dent, re­fer­ring to him as a sole pro­pri­etor with zero em­ploy­ees. The pur­pose of the firm, fixed price con­tract is listed as “rental.”

The un­usual ar­range­ment, first re­ported by The Times in 2011, came about af­ter a ten­ant rent­ing Mr. Bi­den’s cot­tage on his Delaware prop­erty va­cated.

As vice pres­i­dent, Mr. Bi­den earns $230,700 per year. And as a land­lord — he’s listed as a “ven­dor” in gov­ern­ment spend­ing records — Mr. Bi­den stands to re­ceive more than $20,000 in rental in­come. While Mr. Bi­den is hardly rich com­pared to some mem­bers of Pres­i­dent Obama’s Cab­i­net, some ques­tion why he needs to col­lect rent from the gov­ern­ment, too.

Mr. Bi­den and his wife listed $385,072 in gross ad­justed in­come in 2012, ac­cord­ing to tax re­turns re­leased by the White House in April.

Leslie Paige, a spokes­woman for Cit­i­zens Against Gov­ern­ment Waste, said the lat­est lease ex­ten­sion seems “in­sult­ing” at a time when so much of the rest of the gov­ern­ment is slash­ing spend­ing be­cause of the se­quester.

“Where is the sense of the op­tics of this?” Ms. Paige said. “No­body would ar­gue that he and his fam­ily shouldn’t be pro­tected, but he’s ba­si­cally charg­ing his pro­tec­tors to pro­tect him.”

Like tax­payer watch­dogs, Mr. Bi­den has been out­spo­ken on the need to re­duce waste­ful ex­pen­di­tures in fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

“If we’re go­ing to spur jobs and eco­nomic growth and re­store long-term fis­cal sol­vency, we need to make sure hard-earned tax dol­lars don’t go to waste,” he said af­ter con­ven­ing a Cab­i­net meet­ing in 2011 to dis­cuss ways to cut waste­ful spend­ing.

The Se­cret Ser­vice has said lit­tle about the lease deal, though a spokesman pre­vi­ously con­firmed the ar­range­ment to The Times.

Of­fi­cials also say the cot­tage af­fords the agents a level of ac­cess to the Bi­den fam­ily they might not have oth­er­wise.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.