A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Biden Refusing to Pay Campaign Debt?


Q: Is Joe Biden refusing to pay a $150,000 campaign debt?

A: Contrary to a claim in a chain e-mail, public records show Biden paid his debt to an air charter company in full, well before Obama tapped him for vice president. The accountant who wrote the e-mail now says it's "no longer true."

FULL QUESTION

Can you check the validity of this?

Family, I feel an obligation to honesty and truth to share with you some facts. My Father and Mother instilled in me the values and morals of treating people fairly and always being honest. If you purchase something, you pay for it. If you borrow something, you give it back.

I have been "stiffed" three times in my 30 year professional career by someone who I rendered services to, gave a finished product to, but who refused to pay for those services even though they acknowledged the services and products were correct, were what they asked for, and were never challenged for not being correct. I am lucky in having only three, but those three hurt badly. [EET ]

Joe Biden was one of those people. I worked on his 1988 Presidential campaign financial disclosure engagement. I busted it for him and got everything right. He stiffed me for over $15,000 worth of work. He refused to pay once he dropped out of th e race. I did similar Capitol Hill campaign financial disclosure work for Bob Dole, Pat Buchanan, and a Democratic candidate for Ambassador to New Zealand. All of those folks paid even though they lost the election or did not get the appointment. That type of work is very demanding and very tedious because your efforts are scrutinized by Congress. Biden did not care.

I am on the Board of Directors of a company that owns a majority position in a private jet management company in Northern Virginia. They manage jets for businesses and rich folks. They also charter planes to the public. This past winter John Thompson chartered over $250,000 worth of air time. He paid every penny.

Joe Biden, in his latest unsuccessful run for President, chartered over $150,000 worth of air time. He PAID ZERO.
He continues to refuse to pay stating his race is over and he is out of money. He never once complained about his flights. Joe Biden is a rich man. He could pay.

Joe Biden is a liar and a cheat. I know it first hand.
Character is what life is all about. Joe Biden is a man of bad character and sets a bad example for America.

I feel compelled to share this dark side of a man who asks for your vote and trust.

Best Regards, Bruce D. Riddle, CPA, CFP [/EET]

FULL ANSWER

We called Bruce Riddle to see if he had any documentation for his claims. We got a recording at his office asking that anyone calling about the e-mail not leave a message. Riddle's voice mail said he'd been "overwhelmed with literally thousands of phone calls" and that his allegations that Biden had outstanding debts for the use of the air charter and for Riddle's accounting services were "no longer true."

We also asked the Obama-Biden campaign for a response to Riddle's charges. In return, Biden spokesman David Wade sent us detailed information about the larger of the debts and payments made on it. We paid a visit to the Federal Election Commission's Web site to confirm the facts and figures; they checked out. So here's the story:

In its year-end 2007 report, Biden for President listed a debt of $150,464.85 to International Jet Management. Biden paid the bill in full, in three installments, before he was selected as Obama's running mate. He paid $18,642.81 to the company in January 2008. He made a second payment of $30,000 in March 2008. And he made the last payment of $101,822.04 on July 22, 2008. All of these payments are detailed in reports filed with the FEC.

Obama announced that he had chosen Biden to be his running mate on Aug. 23, so this debt was taken care of nearly a month earlier. Assuming Riddle sent his e-mail after Biden became the vice presidential candidate (there is no date on the version that was sent to us), the accountant's allegation doesn't hold up. Biden's campaign no longer owed the money, and in fact had been making payments since January.

As for the other debt Riddle mentioned, $15,000 for work the accountant says he did on Biden's financial disclosure statement in 1988, Biden spokesman David Wade said he wasn't familiar with it. Given that Riddle seemed to be stretching the facts associated with the larger debt, we're inclined to give Biden the benefit of the doubt on the smaller one, at least until we receive solid information to the contrary.

It's not at all unusual, by the way, for campaign debts to linger after the candidates themselves have packed it in. At the end of July, for example, Rudy Giuliani had more than $3.5 million in outstanding debts and obligations, while Hillary Clinton was carrying more than $23 million in debt, roughly half of which was in loans she made to her campaign, according to reports filed with the FEC. Some debts are never paid: John Glenn, a 1984 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, tried for years to pay off his multimillion-dollar albatross. Finally, in 2006, the FEC cut him a break and allowed him to write off the remaining $2.68 million owed to vendors.

–Viveca Novak