Vice President Mike Pence’s walkout on Sunday from the Indianapolis Colts vs. San Francisco 49ers game — which was rumored to have been — left members of congress and the public alike with one big question: How much exactly did Pence’s counter-protest cost taxpayers?
After all the scandals involving unnecessarily expensive travel by cabinet secretaries, how much taxpayer money was wasted on this stunt? https://t.co/R4SFCTCMUJ
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) October 8, 2017
Thankfully a bunch of reporters have crunched the numbers, and revealed a hefty price tag for the vice president’s travel costs for the brief trip to and from Indiana.
According to CNN, just the price of air travel alone to and from the perceived stunt cost Americans an estimated whopping $242,500.
That $242,500 number comes from the Air Force estimate that it costs $30,000/hr to fly Air Force 2. Pence’s total travel time between Las Vegas, Indianapolis, and, finally, Los Angeles lasted about 8 hours. CNN breaks it down:
According to the Air Force, flying a C-32, the model of plane used for Air Force 2, for one hour costs about $30,000. Pence’s flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis Saturday took about three hours and 20 minutes, so it cost about $100,000.
Pence then flew from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Sunday, which took about four hours and 45 minutes, costing about $142,500.
What’s worse, CNN notes that this estimate is only the cost of air travel, and does not include the price of the Indianapolis hotel, where Pence and his staff reportedly stayed on Saturday night, nor does it include the added security costs to secure the Colts stadium for the vice president.
According to CBS, the Republican National Committee will reimburse the administration for a portion of the travel costs to Los Angeles, since it was a fundraising visit.
Pence attempted to justify his actions on Twitter Sunday:
However, as details regarding the sincerity of the game attendance emerged, and President Trump weighed in on Twitter, the public and press began to characterize the trip as a planned publicity stunt — which makes the astronomical cost that much worse.
Fueling the speculation: the fact that Pence tweeted an old photo from the event, and reports that the media weren’t even allowed out of the parking lot at the game.
4/ The Pool reporter covering @VP was told to stay in the van in the parking lot and that @VP would leave the game early
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 8, 2017
I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017
The office of the vice president issued a statement defending the trip Monday, arguing that the stop-over was both cost effective and practical, since Indiana is in between Las Vegas and D.C., and that the alternative was spending the night in D.C.
The statement does not include the option of going directly from Las Vegas to California, where the vice president planned to spend the next several days.
(Side note: Using that $30,000/hr estimate, had Mike Pence flown from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, which is only a 1.5 hour flight, it would have cost $45,000 — far lower than $242,500. Almost $200k lower.)
Pence’s antics aren’t the only White House drain on public finances. In May, Congress allocated an additional $120 million to the budget for Trump family security — half of which would go to reimbursing private venues such as Mar-A-Lago and Trump Tower for the Trump’s travel.
Given former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price’s ousting for his use of costly private travel, VP Pence might want to choose his taxpayer-funded trips more carefully.