by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Vice President Joe Biden, his wife and 11 other family members spent four nights on vacation in August at a lakeside log cabin overlooking the snowcapped peaks of Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park. The views were spectacular. And only a select few get the chance to enjoy them.
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The Brinkerhoff lodge, where Biden’s party stayed, is a four-bedroom retreat owned and operated by the National Park Service. More than 20 years ago, the park service limited use of the cabin, once a scenic getaway for clouted members of government, to “official purposes” after controversy over VIP vacationing there. But in recent years, the park service has allowed top Obama officials to use the Brinkerhoff for extended stays with friends and family, raising new questions about this perk.
In addition to Biden, records obtained by TIME through the Freedom of Information Act show, at least four Cabinet-level officials, a deputy White House chief of staff and the director of the park service have brought groups to the lodge since 2011. While the park service says the trips were tied to official events, such as a tour or briefing, government officials are still supposed to pay for their guests. Most had not done so when TIME began making inquiries. …
… In response to further questions, the Interior Department said on Oct. 28 that it was launching an investigation into the management of the Brinkerhoff. “In light of inconsistencies in billing practices and ambiguity in the policy at the park, the Interior Department has directed the National Park Service to conduct an immediate review of compliance with the policy and related record keeping and to seek reimbursement, where appropriate, for use of the Brinkerhoff,” wrote National Park Service spokeswoman April Slayton in an email.