(This post has been updated.)
Vice President Biden and several top White House officials have vacationed with their families at the same log cabin in Grand Teton National Park. Located on Jackson Lake, the rustic getaway is the perfect escape from the fast-paced Washington grind.
The cabin also happens to be owned by the federal government, and was banned 20-some years ago by the National Park Service for anything other than “official use.”
Some great reporting by Time’s Zeke Miller has prompted the Interior Department to ask for an investigation into Biden’s stay, as well as uses of the cabin by several Obama cabinet secretaries, such as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former transportation secretary Ray LaHood.
Government officials, including Biden, who use the Brinkerhoff lodge are often given briefings and tours that satisfy the “official use” requirement, Jackie Skaggs, a Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman, told Miller. At issue is whether those officials should reimburse the government for extended stays, and for bringing friends and family along.
(Like how members of Congress and their spouses get free rides to Europe, so they can feast on steak tartare at Paris’s La Coupole … and meet with foreign leaders.)
Biden, according to Time, had 11 family members with him for a four-night vacation in August. A public daily guidance announced he was traveling to the National Park in Wyoming for four days with his wife, but did not include any public events or further details.
LaHood and Duncan also stayed for several nights on separate occasions and brought their families along. But those non-government guests are supposed to pay their own way.
But Time’s review of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the park service never billed the officials or kept official records of their visits.
After being asked about their free family vacations, Biden, LaHood and Duncan each claim they will pay whatever they owe if the parks department sends them a bill. Biden is readying a check for $1,200, his office told Miller. Biden’s office also said, and reiterated to the Loop, that it had asked about the cost of renting the lodge for personal use before going and was quoted the per diem rate for Teton County plus $10 per guest.
April Slayton, National Parks Service spokeswoman, confirmed that the agency is “conducting a review of compliance with the policy and related record keeping at the Brinkerhoff, and the park is seeking reimbursement, where appropriate, for use of the Brinkerhoff.”
In 1992, the Park Service sent a memo that the “public interest will be better served” if so-called “VIP accomodations” be used only for official use.
But the policy hasn’t been strictly enforced and federal officials have been able to use the cabin as a family retreat. Something tells us that’s likely to change.
(Correction: An earlier version of this post said Biden’s trip was not on the public schedule. A guidance went out that he and wife Dr. Jill Biden would in Grand Teton National Park from August 7 – August 11.)