TIME politics

Joe Biden Got a Little Too Close to the New Defense Secretary’s Wife

Joe Biden Swears In New Defense Secretary Ashton Carter
Alex Wong—Getty Images Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter delivers remarks after being sworn in during a ceremony in the White House in Washington. D.C. while his wife Stephanie Carter and Vice President Joseph Biden observe on Feb. 17, 2015.

"The world's most powerful close talker" strikes again

During the swearing-in ceremony for Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on Tuesday, cameras caught Vice President Joe Biden whispering into the new defense secretary’s wife’s ears. Critics were quick to pounce on what they saw as another example of the veep’s poor etiquette.

“Joe Biden strikes again with inappropriate touching,” wrote Truth Revolt.

“New SecDef can’t even defend his wife from Joe Biden,” the Daily Caller quipped.

This isn’t Biden’s first time close-talking. In fact, the Washington Post declared Biden “the world’s most powerful close talker.”

There was that time last year when he cozied up to a biker:

And then when he chatted with Delaware Sen. Chris Coons’ daughter Maggie during a different swearing-in ceremony. (After the Internet backlash, Coons noted that his daughter “doesn’t think the vice president is creepy.”)

Read next: Justice Ginsburg Admits She Was Tipsy at State of the Union

Listen to the most important stories of the day.


Brian Williams Isn’t the Only One: Here Are 6 Others Whose Embellishments Threatened Their Careers

Brian Williams is feeling the heat now, but he is certainly not the only one who made potentially career-altering misstatements concerning their own past.

When Brian Williams was suspended by NBC this week following comments he made about being aboard a helicopter that was hit by enemy fire in Iraq, he joined a long line of public figures whose careers were thrown into jeopardy after they made inaccurate statements about their own pasts. Williams, who said he conflated his memory of the 2003 event with an attack on a different aircraft, will be off the air for six months, while NBC conducts an inquiry into this and other of the anchor’s anecdotes that have been called into question.

While Williams is cooling his heels, here’s a look at a half-dozen other CEOs, sports personalities, academics, and politicians who have embellished, exaggerated, or flat-out lied about their past professional experiences, and what happened to them afterward.

  • Scott Thompson, former CEO of Yahoo!

    Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson
    Paul Sakuma—AP

    In May 2012, four months into his tenure as CEO of Yahoo!, Scott Thompson resigned after activist shareholder group Third Point accused him of padding his resume. His bio on the site noted that he received a bachelor’s degree from Stonehill College in both accounting and computer science, when in fact his degree was solely in accounting.

    His bio was the same when he was president of PayPal from 2008 to early 2012, although in the company’s regulatory filings, only his accounting degree was listed. However, the erroneous information popped up again in Yahoo!’s annual report, which Thompson certified, sparking internet outrage and prompting the resignation.

    Thompson quickly rebounded, landing the CEO spot at ShopRunner, an Amazon competitor, two months after being dismissed from Yahoo!

  • Joe Biden, vice president of the United States

    Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking to members of the House Democratic Caucus in Philadelphia, Friday Jan. 30, 2015.
    Joseph Kaczmarek—AP

    While answering a question during a New Hampshire campaign swing in 1987, Joe Biden claimed that he attended Syracuse Law School on a full scholarship and that he graduated in the top half of his class. The revelation was untrue; he actually attended on a partial scholarship based on financial need and graduated 76th out of a class of 85. Like Williams, Biden attributed the mistake to faulty memory, but those misstatements, plus a subsequent allegation that he plagiarized a speech by Neil Kinnock of the British Labour Party, ended his run as a 1988 presidential candidate.

    And you know the rest.

  • George O’Leary, head coach at the University of Central Florida

    Head coach George O'Leary of the UCF Knights gestures during their 52 to 42 win over the Baylor Bears in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.
    Christian Petersen—Getty Images

    George O’Leary’s tenure with Notre Dame lasted a mere five days before he resigned in 2001 after admitting he padded his resume and athletic background. He claimed to have earned varsity letters from 1966 to 1968 while playing for the University of New Hampshire and that he received a master’s degree in education from New York University, both of which turned out to be untrue.

    O’Leary spent the next two years with the Minnesota Vikings (he was the defensive-line coach in 2002 and the defensive coordinator in 2003), but was then hired as the coach of the University of Central Florida in late 2003. Since then, he has rebuilt the team into a consistent winner and continues to lead the school to new records.

  • Marilee Jones, former dean of admissions at M.I.T.

    Marilee Jones, Dean of Admissions for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at her office in Cambridge, Massachusetts office December 5, 2005.
    Neal Hamberg—Bloomberg News

    Marilee Jones worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 28 years before she admitted she fabricated her resume when she first applied for a secretarial job at the school. She had originally claimed to hold degrees from Albany Medical College, Union College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute but had never received a degree from any of them.

    Though she was admired on campus, an anonymous tip led to an internal investigation in April 2007, and Jones resigned shortly thereafter. She is now a consultant who advises parents and students on navigating the college application process.

  • David Edmondson, former CEO of RadioShack

    David Edmondson, the new Chief Executive Officer of RadioShack Corp. stands in the gaming area of StoreOne, a prototype store located by their headquarters, Wednesday, May 18, 2005, in Fort Worth, Texas.
    Tony Gutierrez—Associated Press

    David Edmondson worked at RadioShack for more than a decade before being named CEO in 2005, but only held the high office for less than a year before resigning over discrepancies in his resume. Originally, the preacher-turned-businessman claimed to have received a degree in psychology and theology from a college now known as Heartland Baptist Bible College. He then amended his statement, saying he received his degree in theology, which requires three years, by completing correspondence courses. That, too, was deemed inaccurate after it was revealed he attended the school for only two semesters.

    While Edmondson was at the helm, Radio Shack’s stock fell 20%, and the company has continued to struggle. The once prominent electronics retailer recently filed for bankruptcy.

  • Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut state senator

    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, December 10, 2014 in Washington, DC.
    Drew Angerer—Getty Images

    In 2010, the New York Times called out then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal for suggesting in a 2008 speech that he had served in Vietnam, even though records showed that he received at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and never went to Vietnam. He did, however, serve six years in the Marine Corp Reserves, all in the United States.

    While the “misplaced words,” which Blumental said he regretted, briefly interrupted the politician’s campaign to succeed Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, he defeated Linda McMahon in the 2010 race.

TIME State of the Union 2015

These Are the Funniest Memes From the State of the Union

Few were safe from becoming a joke on social media

While pundits and political operatives dissected President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, the quick-witted citizens of Twitter flourished in the abundance of meme-able moments Tuesday night.

Here are some of the highlights.

  • Biden’s Reaction

    Not sure if the Vice President knew he was making the face of a rapper’s hype-man as the President spoke.

  • Speaker Boehner is Not Impressed

    Like the Vice President’s, House Speaker John Boehner’s facial expressions are always an easy target for critique during the State of the Union

  • Secretary Moniz Gets Meme’d

    Neither Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz nor his amazing hair got enough air time during the State of the Union

  • First Lady Fashion

    First Lady Michelle Obama channelled the look of another “First Lady” last night, Alicia Florrick of CBS’s The Good Wife.

  • The President’s “Drops-Mic” Moment

    The moment that stole the show gets the Vine treatment, complete with dad-dancing

  • Rand Paul Joins In

    Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul joined in on the fun, using a Willy Wonka meme to question the President’s plan for free community college

  • The State of the Union Is…

    Though Obama said Tuesday the state of our union is “strong,” someone suggested a word that could better connect with the youth

  • The Suit Returns

    White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer did a little pre-speech trolling, suggesting the President would be wearing his infamous tan-suit during the evening’s address

  • Joni Ernst’s Shoes

    During the official Republican response, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst recalled covering her shoes with bread bags to protect them when she was growing up, which spawned arguably one of the funniest memes of the night

  • A Presidential Wink

    POTUS flashes a wink and a smile

    Read next: The State of the Union Brought Out the Troll in Everyone

    Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME national park service

Inspector General Conducting Review of Park After Biden Vacation

The Brinkerhoff Cabin on the shore of Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park outside Jackson, Wyoming, Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Photo by Jim Urquhart for Time
Jim Urquhart for TIME The Brinkerhoff Cabin on the shore of Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park outside Jackson, Wyo. on Oct. 28, 2014.

The Department of Interior Inspector General’s office has taken over a review into cheap vacations taken by senior government officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, at a secluded National Park Service lodge in Wyoming.

First revealed in a TIME investigation in October, Biden and his family stayed at the Brinkerhoff Lodge this summer for four nights, and reimbursed the government for the stay after press inquires. The visit appeared to violate longstanding Park Service policy against “VIP” vacations at national parks. Stays by Cabinet officials such as former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are also part of the review, and both requested updated invoices for their trips after TIME inquiries.

The four-bedroom Brinkerhoff Lodge is a log cabin overlooking the snowcapped peaks of Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park along the shores of Jackson Lake. Under a 1992 rule, the lodge is maintained for use by federal employees for “training and official conferences” and for those on “temporary duty in the park.” But the park superintendent has discretion over whether to demand payment for the lodge, and could interpret those rules to allow extended family vacations if there is an element of official business involved.

In Biden’s case, his office maintained the trip was personal in nature, while the park maintained there was an official element because he was given a briefing and tour of the national park. He reimbursed the federal government only $1,200 for his family’s stay, consistent with the government per-diem rate, but well below the market rate for equivalent properties in the area. Aides said Biden had always intended to reimburse the government, but that the park never billed him for his stay.

After inquiries from TIME, the Department of Interior ordered the Park Service to conduct a review of the policies at the park. But in November, the House Committee on Natural Resources, which has oversight of the department, raised concerns about the internal review.

“It is a clear conflict of interest for the Director of the Park Service to be charged with conducting the Department’s investigation into misuse of the Brinkerhoff Lodge when he and his family members were reportedly among the VIPs allowed to use the lodge,” Chairman Doc Hastings and Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulations Chairman Rob Bishop wrote. “The Director of the Park Service lacks the independence, experience, and tools required to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter.”

After the letter, the review was handed over to the department’s inspector general.

“The Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General has initiated a performance evaluation of the Brinkerhoff reservations policy and billing practices, which is ongoing,” National Parks Service spokeswoman April Slayton told TIME. “The National Park Service has provided information to the OIG and continues to work with them on this issue.”

The review is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

TIME Israel-US relations

U.S. Relations With Israel Remain in Frozen Embrace Until Elections

Joe Biden
Jose Luis Magana—AP U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the Saban Forum in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6, 2014

The rule of thumb in Israeli politics has it that the moment new elections are called, affairs of state go into the deep freeze, not to thaw until a new government emerges months later. There have been exceptions — in 1981, Menachem Begin ordered the surprise strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor three weeks before nationwide balloting — but none were in evidence at the annual conference of U.S. and Israeli leaders convened this past weekend at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disbanded his ruling coalition three days before the Brookings Institution’s annual Saban Forum, rendering the elite confab a showcase for the status quo: the alliance remains closer than at any time in history at the level of cooperation between the two country’s defense and security establishment. But at the more visible level of political leadership, there’s no longer even an effort to disguise the ugliness. It was only five weeks ago that an anonymous Obama Administration official referred to Netanyahu in an interview as “chickensh-t,” and no one from the Administration dispatched to the Willard over the weekend bothered denying either the quote or the judgment.

The message, rather, was that personal feelings simply don’t matter much in such an ironclad alliance, and no one should be distracted by “politics” or “differences over tactics.”

“Look, we’re close friends. The American people and the Israeli people, our governments,” said Vice President Joe Biden, the most senior official on hand to address the state of the relationship. “There’s absolutely no daylight, none, between us and Israelis on the question of Israeli’s security. But as friends, we have an obligation to speak honestly with one another, to talk about, not avoid the tactical disagreements we have. And we have tactical disagreements to lay out for one another each of our perspectives. I know none of you have ever — I assume none of you ever doubted I’ve meant whatever I’ve said to you. The problem is I sometimes say all that I think to you.”

Biden noted, as Administration officials often do, that he and President Barack Obama have met with Netanyahu more than any other world leader. But that’s a double-edged observation given what a live mic caught Obama telling his French counterpart in 2011 (“You’re tired of him? What about me? I have to deal with him every day”). For his part, Biden called Netanyahu a friend of 30 years, adding “we sometimes drive each other crazy” but that both sides acknowledge as much.

“Let’s not make more of what are normal disagreements that occur between friends than warrants,” the Vice President implored. “Israel disagrees with us on a number of tactics. They have a different perspective on how to proceed. But folks, that’s the downside of democracy. It also has an upside. We never have to wonder where the other guy is standing. Occasionally, politics on both sides of this divide, these tactical divides, is used to try to gain an advantage. But you’re all sophisticated enough to know that.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, who has endured a good deal of name-calling from senior Israeli politicians (the Defense Minister famously dismissed his enthusiasm for peace talks with the Palestinians as “obsessive and messianic”), read from the same talking points in his address Sunday, noting the record-high levels of U.S. military and intelligence support for Israel “despite whatever political disagreement there might be, or tactical disagreement.”

Obama was not present this year, and Netanyahu’s prerecorded address was delivered by satellite from Jerusalem, where he noted he has “one or two things” to deal with. The brief speech was heavy on Netanyahu’s preferred topic of security. “The entire region is hemorrhaging, ” he said, singling out the emergence of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) — which, a new Brookings poll shows, is of far greater concern to the American public than the question of whether Israel will make peace with the Palestinians, who claim the same land. Seven out of 10 people said that of events in the Mideast, the rise of ISIS threatens American interests “the most.”

The poll also showed that, if negotiations fail to produce a Palestinian state beside Israel, two out of three Americans would prefer a single democratic state with equal rights for Jews and Palestinians — a prospect that most Jewish Israelis say they regard as unacceptable.

Elections are tentatively set for March 17.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Eric Cantor’s Secrets for Negotiating with Joe Biden

Joe Biden
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Civil Society Forum on the sideline of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 4, 2014

"The Guy's Awesome"

Last week’s Republican victories may have had the paradoxical effect of increasing the influence of the consummate Congressional Democrat, Joe Biden. GOP leaders looking to show they can get things done now that control both the House and Senate will need to cut deals with the Obama White House, and Vice President Joe Biden may be their best hope to do so.

On Tuesday, TIME spoke with one of the closest observers of Biden’s negotiating tactics, his long-time sparring partner and former House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, now vice chairman and at the investment bank Moelis & Company. As the number two Republican in the House for the first six years of the Obama administration, and a constant thorn in the side of the White House on issues like the budget, energy, immigration and health care, Cantor saw Biden’s techniques up close.

You’ve spent a lot of time negotiating with Vice President Biden. What was that like?

Cantor: Unquestionably, the Vice President knows how to negotiate. He understands people. And in my professional background, before I got to Congress and certainly now in the private world at Moelis & Company and in Congress, if you’re interested in doing deals, and getting a result, what I think what one needs to do is be able to size people up. And this is what Joe Biden has always been about in my experience. He is able to size up where the opposition is. He’s firmly rooted in his direction, what he needs to accomplish in the negotiations, and then understands how far you can push and not lose a result or a deal.

My real experience is from the extended time we spent together in the summer of 2011 around the debt ceiling discussions. As you recall, the Speaker had asked me to serve on the Biden commission. The President had basically formed it and put the Vice President in charge. And there were a handful of us in the room for seven weeks almost, three days a week, two and a half hours a day. And the Vice president was the only one, and that commission was the only entity that really came up with a list of spending reductions that both sides could agree to.

Now, he would always say nothing was agreed to unless everything is agreed to. But nonetheless, work was done in the granularity of the programs that were targeted. Nothing was ever agreed to universally because the tax question came up and that’s what kicked it back to the White House and we all had to come back to the White House for two weeks with the President and then ultimately that ended with the Super Committee creation. But if you look at what has transpired since then, the Super Committee, the fiscal cliff, Murray-Ryan, all of that, the work that came out of Joe Biden’s commission is the common theme. And I believe that is attributable to his negotiating skills and ability to cut through—to set aside what you don’t agree on and try to come to a result.

What was the difference in negotiating with the President compared to the Vice President:

Cantor: I just think that the President obviously doesn’t have the tenure in Washington in negotiating deals that the Vice President’s had. Just in terms of pure time. And I think that the President is very rooted in what he wants. The President also, in my view, is very rooted in what he thinks the other side wants. And that’s where the difficulty in my opinion has been with the President over the last six years. If one does not agree with the President’s view of what you want, there’s very little prospect for a result. Joe Biden has a real sensitivity, not only to human reaction, but also partisan and political sensitivities. He understands how far you can push before you just blow up the prospects for a deal.

One readout of last week’s White House meeting suggested that the Vice President got ahead of Obama’s position on immigration reform in a desire to cut a deal. Have you seen that happen before?

Cantor: Honestly, the whole sense of the discussion around the initial debt ceiling talks in 2011 was just that. The president had dispatched the Vice President to come up with areas that could become part of a larger deal. And really the Vice President was very clear and never hid anything from me. He said in order to get any of the kinds of things we’re discussing, the President is going to want some kind of revenue increase. He laid it all out on the table. ‘That’s what we need.’ And I indicated what we needed and that we couldn’t go for tax increases. So I think there has certainly been evidence that the Vice President is a negotiator, he wants to cut through and get a deal done.

I think that on the fiscal cliff deal, when he struck that agreement with McConnell, that was the last time that the President wanted Joe Biden involved. And this is unfortunately what the pattern has been. Hopefully, I think the President may see the light and say if you want to get a deal done, bring in the deal man, Joe Biden.

What’s the current state of the Biden-McConnell relationship?

Cantor: I can’t speak for McConnell. But I do… stay in touch with [Biden]. He stays in touch with people. Part of the ability to do deals is to know both sides and to understand their thought process and their political priorities and imperatives. My sense would be, if I’m like others, Joe Biden has maintained those relationships. And that’s one of the striking differences between the President and Vice President. The President has not spent the time necessary even while he’s been in office the last six years, much less before, developing, nurturing relationships and understanding people’s thinking. And that is a huge impediment to the President’s ability to do a deal, whereas I think Joe Biden has been schooled in that way.

How did you try to square the Vice President’s public image with his negotiating record?

Cantor: Joe Biden is what you see. You know, he’s genuine. Yes, he’s prone to gaffes publicly, and he’ll admit that. He’s very self-deprecating like that. And I’m certainly not one who agrees with Joe Biden on all things—we probably disagree more than we agree—but from a human and relationship standpoint, the guy’s awesome.

Do you think the midterms opened up the possibility for deal-making?

Cantor: I really think that there’s going to be a trial period here. And I really look at the next six weeks as that. From the White House standpoint, if the president signs an executive order on immigration unilaterally that will not bode well for the productivity of the next Congress. Again, I think that’s the trial issue for the president.

From Congress’ standpoint, their job is to get done the omnibus/minibus spending package. Because if they kick the can and decide to push the [longer-term spending bill] into the next Congress so they don’t have to “negotiate” with the other side, I think that leaves wide open the chance of mischief and derailing of the path to productivity.

Do you think last week’s election paved the way for a more united GOP conference, or will leadership still have difficulty keeping members in line.

Cantor: In my experience, I think the latter would probably be [a more likely] reality. And it’s always going to be a challenge for leadership. I do think in the House, the Speaker and the Leader are going to have a much larger majority now that hopefully will be more inclined to follow the path laid out by the Speaker and the leadership. If we can see the House and Senate to really begin to move legislation across the floor—and some of the legislation and probably a lot of it will not be to the White House’s liking—there’s something about that that may lend itself to a more espirit de corps, if you will, for folks to hang together because they’re winning, they’re getting legislation across the floor, they’re getting it out of Congress, sending it to the President’s desk and then it would be incumbent on the President to respond.

I think if you can see some real legislative productivity on the Hill that may lend itself to the larger majorities now hanging with leadership more.

TIME White House

Why Barack Obama Never Talked To Mitch McConnell on Election Night

Election Night for Senator Mitch McConnell, the senior United States Senator from Kentucky. A member of the Republican Party, he has been the Minority Leader of the Senate since January 3, 2007.
Christopher Morris—VII for TIME Sen. Mitch McConnell at his election night celebration in Louisville, Ky. on Nov. 4, 2014.

For the second time, the President struggles with Election Night well wishes to Republicans. But Vice President Joe Biden got through.

President Barack Obama called to congratulate Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell on winning the job of Senate leader between 12:30 and 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. The only problem: By then, McConnell and his wife, former Secretary Elaine Chao, had already left for home and some much needed sleep after a grueling campaign, McConnell aides say.

MORE: See all the election results

The President left a message.

Vice President Joe Biden, by contrast, called about an hour earlier, and was able to get through to his longtime Senate colleague. McConnell aides say they expect he’ll connect with the President later Wednesday and that he’s looking forward to having lunch at the White House on Friday.

This isn’t the first time the Obama White House has struggled to connect with an Election Night phone call, as I reported exclusively in 2011.

On the night that Republicans won control of the House in 2010, the White House Press Office came to a startling realization: They had no contact information for Speaker-to-be John Boehner. In President Obama’s first two years in office, he’d reached out to House Republicans so little that they had no reason to get to know—or even get phone numbers or e-mails for—Boehner’s staff. Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse was asked to call his fishing buddy, Nick Schaper, who was Boehner’s new media director at the time. Schaper gave the appropriate names and numbers to Woodhouse, who then relayed them to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Update from Zeke Miller:

From a White House Official:

Last night the President phoned dozens of House, Senate, Gubernatorial candidates of both parties, and members the House and Senate leadership. The list of those lawmakers he connected with are below, and he is continuing additional calls throughout the day.

Senator Harry Reid

Senator Dick Durbin

Senator Michael Bennet

AR Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson

SD Senator-elect Mike Rounds

WV Senator-elect Shelly Moore Capito

MI Senator-elect Gary Peters

Senator Lindsey Graham

Senator Jim Inhofe

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Leader Nancy Pelosi

Governor-elect Tom Wolf, PA

Senator-elect James Lankford, OK

Senator-elect Tom Cotton, AR

Governor John Kasich

Senator Susan Collins

Senator Ed Markey

Senator Jeff Sessions

Senator Cory Booker

Senator Tim Scott

Senator Al Franken

Senator Mark Pryor

Congressman-elect Seth Moulton

Governor Robert Bentley

Governor Bill Haslam

Read next: Obama Says He Wants to ‘Get Stuff Done’

TIME 2014 Election

Biden: Kansas Independent ‘Will Be With Us’

Greg Orman Kansas Senate
Mark Reinstein—Corbis Independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman poses with his wife Sybil at the Clint Bowyers Community Center in the west end of Emporia, Kans.,

Meantime, Greg Orman says he's not talked to the vice president

One of the more intriguing possibilities on Election Day is a tie in the Senate with Kansas Independent Greg Orman as the kingmaker. While Orman has not said who he would caucus with should he beat incumbent GOP Senator Pat Roberts, Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he’s confident that Orman will join the Democrats.

“We have a chance of picking up an independent who will be with us in the state of Kansas,” said Biden in a radio interview with WPLR, a Connecticut radio station. Biden added that he thinks Senate Democrats will hold the majority with about 52 senators, with victories in North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Alaska.

Biden’s comments play into the Republicans’ narrative that Orman is really a Democrat. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has said it’s “impossible” that he would caucus with the GOP, even though Orman has maintained that he would align with whoever wins the majority.

Still, the odds are that the Senate won’t come down to Orman, since most forecasters expect Republicans to win more than enough seats to take the majority with or without the Kansas independent.

Orman campaign manager Jim Jonas said in an emailed statement that the candidate has “never spoken to the Vice President in his life.”

“Greg is an Independent, and he’s not going to Washington [to] represent the Democrats or the Republicans—he’s going to represent the people of Kansas,” added Jonas.

TIME White House

Joe Biden, Top Obama Officials Get Cheap Family Vacations at Federal Log Cabin

Interior Department launches investigation after TIME inquiries

Correction appended Oct. 29

Vice President Joe Biden, his wife and 11 other family members spent four nights on vacation this August at a lakeside log cabin overlooking the snowcapped peaks of Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park.

The four-bedroom Brinkerhoff Lodge, where they stayed, is owned and operated by the National Park Service. Under a policy adopted in 1992, after controversy over VIPs using the cabin for vacations, the National Park Service banned purely recreational activities by federal employees at the property, restricting its use to “official purposes.” But in recent years, the park service has interpreted that same rule so broadly as to again allow senior officials to take cheap vacations in Grand Teton with friends and family.

While visiting the park, Biden held no events, kept no public schedule, and his staff initially declined to answer a reporter’s question about where he spent the night. Last week, after TIME uncovered documents confirming his stay at the lodge, Biden’s office said the Vice President planned to personally reimburse the park $1,200 for “renting the Brinkerhoff” for his family’s vacation.

Under park service rules, the lodge is maintained for use by federal employees for “training and official conferences” and for those on “temporary duty in the park.” In practice, the superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, who has discretion over whether to demand payment for the lodge, has interpreted those rules to allow extended family vacations if there is an element of official business involved.

A Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman, Jackie Skaggs, said last week the Biden family visit met the internal criteria, since the Vice President received an official park briefing and tour while staying at the lodge. “With few, if any, exceptions, officials who stay at the Brinkerhoff are given in-depth briefings and/or issue tours,” she wrote in an email to TIME.

But that explanation may not stand. In response to further questions from TIME, the Interior Department said Tuesday that it was launching an investigation into how the park service has managed 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 recordkeeping and to seek reimbursement, where appropriate, for use of the Brinkerhoff,” wrote National Park Service spokeswoman April Slayton in an email to TIME.

A Favorite Vacation Spot

Biden is not the only senior member of the Obama Administration who has taken advantage of the Brinkerhoff in recent years for family vacations or getaways with friends. Records obtained by TIME through the Freedom of Information Act show that at least four cabinet-level officials, a deputy White House chief of staff and the director of the Park Service have made use of the lodge with friends and family since 2011.

  • Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson stayed three nights in 2011 with her husband, and five other people, including a person listed as a friend. She received a tour of a new air quality monitoring station, according to a park official.
  • Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood traveled there in 2012 for eight nights with his wife, his daughter-in-law, three grandchildren, two other adults and his son, Illinois State Sen. Darin LaHood. He attended the Department of Transportation grant award event, according to LaHood’s office.
  • Education Secretary Arne Duncan stayed there for six nights with his wife and children in 2013. He attended a nearby roundtable with tribal leaders and an event at a local school, according to the Department of Education.
  • Former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, who oversaw the National Park Service, stayed there with his family for three nights in 2011. His office did not return a call about the purpose of his visit.
  • Former White House Special Advisor Phil Schiliro also used the lodge for one night in August of 2011 with his wife and one other person. The White House did not return emails about the purpose of his visit.
  • National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, his wife, his son and his son’s girlfriend stayed for five days in August of 2012. The park service said he had official business on two of the five days. ” The director took personal time during the remaining days,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Under federal policy, family members may accompany government employees who travel on official business. “Family members’ travel costs and incidental expenses are not typically reimbursed by the federal government, although they may stay in the accommodations reserved for the traveling employee, as long as any additional costs incurred as a result of the stay are covered by personal funds,” wrote National Park Service spokeswoman Slayton.

Confusion Over The Rules

The offices of several officials who stayed at Brinkerhoff, including the Vice President, Duncan and LaHood, said there was initial confusion over their need to pay for extended stays at the lodge with family members.

Under National Park Service policy, “a bill of collection will be prepared” for those who visit the Brinkerhoff on “project related travel that will be billed to another entity.” The Freedom of Information Act request returned no documents showing that any bills had been issued. The park service also produced no records of official stays at the Brinkerhoff between 2000 and 2010.

A spokesperson for the Vice President, who declined to be named, said Biden’s office was still waiting for an invoice from the park two months after the stay, when TIME made inquiries. “The office understood from the park service that personal use would cost the local per diem rate,” the spokesperson said, referring to the a schedule of overnight hotel costs maintained by the General Services Administration for a single hotel room. Biden’s office said the Vice President will now personally pay $1,200 for the four nights, a figure that includes an extra $10 per night for each additional member of his family.

That cost, which assumes that a four-bedroom lodge is comparable to a single hotel room, is far below market rate for other nearby accommodations, especially during peak summer tourism season. At the nearby Jackson Lake Lodge, a two-bedroom cabin that sleeps four without a view of the lake, averages $250 a night in August. Nearby homes outside the park can rent for more than $1,000 per night during the summer.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education says the park service “never conveyed” to Duncan that he would have to pay for the non-official portion of his family’s nearly week-long stay. “Secretary Duncan requested an invoice for his family’s stay and will reimburse the park fully for the time he was on personal leave,” the official said.

A spokesperson for LaHood, who is now a policy adviser at a law firm, said he made a donation to the park at the time of around $250 after consulting with Salazar. LaHood has since asked the park if he is obligated to pay more.

With the exception of a $150 check from Salazar, the park service has no record of any payment from other officials for their stays, though Skaggs said charges are sometimes directly billed to other government offices and that the park doesn’t maintain records of those transactions.

There is evidence, however, that the park service is now trying to improve its management of the Brinkerhoff, at least on the public relations front. After being contacted by TIME, a computer with an IP address registered to the National Park Service made alterations to the Wikipedia page for the Brinkerhoff Lodge.

A phrase describing the property as a “vacation lodge” was changed to “historic lodge.” A phrase noting the Brinkerhoff’s history as a destination for “VIP housing” was deleted.

A Controversial History

Located on the banks of Jackson Lake with views of the glacier-strewn peak of Mount Moran, the Brinkerhoff Lodge was built in 1947 by the family of Zachary Brinkerhoff, a prominent Wyoming oil company executive. It features a two-story living room, a full-length deck, Western-style chandeliers and interior walls lined with log or knotty pine paneling.

After it was acquired by the National Park Service in the 1950s, the lodge became one of several “VIP” properties across the country, which were used by presidents, members of Congress and government bureaucrats. The park service curtailed their use following public outcry in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “The Secretary has concluded that the public interest will be better served by having the four existing VIP accommodations used only for official purposes,” reads a memorandum by former Parks Service director James M. Ridenour, which remains in effect. “As of February 10, 1992, these sites will no longer be available as VIP accommodations.”

All but the Brinkerhoff were eventually converted to other uses. The Bodie Island Cottage, a three-bedroom lodge that sleeps 11 just off the beach below the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina, was turned into a ranger station. Little Cinnamon House in Virgin Islands National Park, where former President Jimmy Carter stayed for nearly two weeks after his 1980 electoral defeat, was turned into employee housing, and “is currently in disrepair and uninhabited” according to park service officials. Camp Hoover in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, once a favorite of members of Congress with sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was converted to a museum in 1996.

The park service maintains that it is cheaper for the federal government to house officials at the Brinkerhoff on official travel because it costs less than nearby hotels.

“Historic structures are better maintained when they are actively used and the park has determined that seasonal use of the Brinkerhoff will better protect this valuable historic facility,” Skaggs said. “By allowing officials and governmental employees access to occasional overnight stays in the Brinkerhoff, the park is able to fund the long-term maintenance of this historic structure.”

She added that the fees, when collected from stays at the Brinkerhoff, are earmarked for preserving the building.

Read next: Sources: Hunter Biden Leaves Navy After Drug Test

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified Phil Schiliro’s former title. He was an assistant to the President and special advisor.

TIME politics

These Photos of Joe Biden Eating an Ice Cream Cone Show That His Eternal Summer Shall Not Fade

Oh, Mr. Vice President, thou art so lovely and so temperate

Well, it looks like whoever runs the Joe Biden Eats Ice Cream Tumblr has some updating to do.

During a visit to Portland to campaign with Sen. Jeff Merkley Wednesday, the veep stopped by the city’s beloved Salt & Straw ice cream parlor for a little treat. Or actually, from the looks of it, a rather large treat.

Biden ordered a scoop of “Chocolate Woodblock” and a scoop of “Double-Fold Vanilla” in a waffle cone. Of course, he also bought a cone for Merkley. And of course, he kept his aviators on the entire time.

Biden, Merkley
Don Ryan—APVice President Joe Biden, right, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley enjoy ice cream cones after a campaign rally in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.
Biden, Merkley
Don Ryan—APVice President Joe Biden, right, pays for ice cream cones for himself and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley after a campaign rally in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.
Don Ryan—APVice President Joe Biden enjoys an ice cream cone after a campaign rally for Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.
Biden, Lobkowizc
Don Ryan—APVice President Joe Biden holds an ice cream cone as he poses for a photo with Hope Lobkowizc and her son, Owen, at an ice cream parlor after a campaign rally in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.
Biden, Merkley
Don Ryan—APVice President Joe Biden gets ready to pay for an ice cream cone after a campaign rally for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.

Somewhere, Leslie Knope is going weak in the knees.

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