Mike Pence’s Vail holiday visit cost taxpayers over $750K for security alone, report shows | VailDaily.com

Mike Pence’s Vail holiday visit cost taxpayers over $750K for security alone, report shows

Secret Service report details lodging and rental car costs for December visit

Vice President Mike Pence waves after speaking during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit on Dec. 22, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Shortly after, he visited Vail for the holidays.
Lynne Sladky/AP

Former Vice President Mike Pence’s 2020 holiday trip to Vail and Beaver Creek came with a high price tag, mostly on accommodations for his security detail.

Documents provided by the United States Secret Service and shared by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington shows expenses incurred between December 17, 2020, and January 3, 2021 include 77 charges from rental car companies at Eagle County Regional Airport and Denver International Airport, and lodging expenses at several area hotels including over $270,000 spent at the Marriott Vail Mountain and more than $80,000 at the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch.

“The trip came with a massive bill to taxpayers, with Secret Service protection alone costing $757,527.85,” CREW reports. Mike and Karen Pence were the only two listed protectees on the documents.

A brief history of VP visits

The Vail area has a long history of visits from vice presidents — and the costs tied to security detail are the largest expenses from these trips. Members of the Secret Service have also, more than once, been in the spotlight for things other than operational costs.

In 1991, Dan Quayle spent his Christmas holiday learning to snowboard in Vail. While he was here, a member of his Secret Service detail was caught walking out of a Gart Brothers store in West Vail with a ski jacket hidden in a shopping bag, and was later charged with misdemeanor theft.

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A 1991 clip from the Eagle Valley Enterprise details the controversy around Dan Quayle’s visit to Vail.

In 2006, Dick Cheney attended the World Economic Forum sessions in Beaver Creek, where a man approached the then-VP, touched him on the shoulder and criticized his policies on Iraq. The man was detained by Secret Service, questioned and released. The man then brought allegations that his right to freedom of speech and his right from unlawful search and seizure were violated. What followed was years of trial that made it all the way to the Supreme Court in 2012, with an 8-0 ruling in the favor of the Secret Service.

Former VPs Al Gore, Walter Mondale and President Joe Biden also vacationed in the valley while in office, though there have been no reported controversies tied to those visits. The most recent VP visit wouldn’t be tied to one either, had it not been for the bill. But expensive veep-cations are evidently par for the course, and some constituents are calling for more fiscal responsibility.

“All politicians do not spend our (taxpayer) money in the same way as they spend their own money,” said Kaye Ferry, chair of Eagle County Republicans. Ferry mentioned Michelle Obama’s lavish taxpayer-supported vacations, including a ski trip to Vail with daughters Sasha and Malia during President’s Day Weekend in 2011, where they stayed at The Sebastian in Vail.

The former first lady and daughters also visited Aspen twice during the Obama presidency: Once in 2012 where the cost to taxpayers totaled $83,000 and again in 2015 where the cost to taxpayers was at least $57,000 for the airfare alone.

Local law enforcement mostly hands-off

When the Vail Daily asked local law enforcement officials in December how many local resources were used for the visit, the answer was the same across the board: Very few.

Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said that Pence’s visit didn’t require much help from his people, except for some help with the motorcade that drove Pence from the Eagle County Regional Airport upvalley.

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger also said there was not much extra strain to his department, and added that most dignitaries who bring their own security are “pretty self-sufficient.”

“He’s just enjoying family time,” Henninger said.

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