- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the landlord, can count on at least 12 more months of rental income from the agency that protects his life.

Federal spending records show the U.S. Secret Service approved a purchase order on Nov. 2 to pay Mr. Biden $26,400 for agents to stay at a cottage on lakefront property he owns in Delaware.

Edwin M. Donovan, special agent in charge at the Secret Service’s Office of Public Affairs in Washington, said Mr. Biden isn’t receiving all that money at once. Instead, he said, the purchase order shows plans by the Secret Service to pay Mr. Biden $2,200 per month for another year.

In other words, Mr. Biden isn’t raising the rent.

He has been charging the Secret Service that same rate under previous purchases orders, first reported by The Washington Times this past summer, totaling $13,200.

The White House declined to comment Thursday on the latest purchase order other than to point out that the cottage property was an existing rental when the Secret Service moved in.

But officials declined to say whether Mr. Biden considered letting agents stay in his cottage free of charge, or even at a reduced rate, following criticisms from taxpayer watchdogs who questioned the arrangement when it became public in July.

Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for the Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group, said Thursday that Mr. Biden and his family are entitled to all of the protection they get to ensure their safety. But, she said, continuing to charge the Secret Service rent undercuts the image Mr. Biden has sought to cultivate as a cost cutter intent on rooting out waste in government.

“If he’s into the symbolic gestures, this is where he ought to start. He should start literally in his own backyard,” Ms. Paige said. “Let’s hear his rationale for why he can’t forgo this $26,000.”

Pete Sepp, vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, told The Times this past summer that Mr. Biden ought to consider donating the rent he is collecting from the Secret Service to pay down the national debt, but there has been no word on whether Mr. Biden has considered that idea.

Still, Mr. Biden’s reputation for scouring the federal budget to save money got a boost this week when President Obama singled him out in a White House ceremony on cutting wasteful spending.

“In addition to soliciting ideas from federal employees, I’ve also tasked Vice President Biden to work with the secretaries of all of our agencies to identify some systematic areas of potential improvement — travel, transportation, IT services — all of which we know can potentially save billions of dollars,” Mr. Obama said.

“And in September, Joe convened the Cabinet and has really pushed them hard in finding savings across all of our agencies.”

When first questioned about collecting rent from the Secret Service this past summer, officials could not provide another example of anyone protected by the Secret Service charging rent. In fact, in a follow-up story about the arrangement, Mr. Biden’s own hometown newspaper, the News Journal, reported that Mr. Biden was the first official guarded by the Secret Service to receive rental income as a landlord for the agents who protect him.

According to Mr. Biden’s office, the cottage had been occupied by Mr. Biden’s mother, Jean Biden, who died in 2010 at 92.

After her death, Mr. Biden asked the Secret Service about renting the property, but the agency declined and a private tenant whose identity has not been disclosed moved in. When that tenant moved out, however, the Secret Service reconsidered, approached Mr. Biden about renting the property and moved in, paying the same $2,200 per-month rate charged to the previous occupant.

Mr. Donovan previously told The Times that the cottage’s close location provided a level of security for the Biden family that the agency might not have had otherwise.

Before moving into the cottage, the Secret Service had been renting properties in the Wilmington area for agents who were assigned to Mr. Biden’s personal residence.

When first asked this past summer whether the Secret Service typically pays rent to those it protects, Mr. Donovan said, “It’s a rental property, so we pay rent there.”

Even with extra income as a landlord, Mr. Biden isn’t nearly as wealthy as Mr. Obama, who reported overall income of slightly less than $1.8 million last year mostly from the sale of his books.

Last year, Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill, reported earnings of $379,178, including $11,000 in rental income from their cottage, according to their tax return. They did not list any rental income for 2009.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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