Fact Check

Joe Biden's Unpaid Campaign Debt

E-mail lists unpaid campaign debts incurred by Senator Joe Biden.

Published Sep 5, 2008

Claim:   E-mail lists unpaid campaign debts incurred by Senator Joe Biden.

Status:   Multiple — see below.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, August 2008]

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.

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 the 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.

Origins:   Immediately after the August 2008 announcement that Delaware senator Joe Biden had been selected by Barack Obama as his vice-presidential running mate, the
above-quoted e-mail forward attributed to a Maryland accountant by the name of Bruce D. Riddle began to circulate on the Internet, accusing Biden of failing to redeem presidential campaign debts for services rendered ($15,000 for work on a financial disclosure statement and $150,000 for charter airline services). In response to an e-mail query, Mr. Riddle stated only that "This [message] was sent to six family members as a private email. Please do not forward. He has since paid in full," and declined to provide documentation for his original claims or any additional information that could be used to verify them.

A search of Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosure reports
shows that during 2007, the Biden for President campaign did receive services in the amount of $151,083.85 from International Jet Management (IJM), a Dulles, Virginia-based private aircraft management company which is presumably the "private jet management company in Northern Virginia" from which Biden "chartered over $150,000 worth of air time" referenced in Mr. Riddle's message:

However, the campaign's 2008 monthly FEC disclosure reports show that this debt was subsequently retired in full through installment payments made in January, March, and July of 2008:

Thus, the claim that the Biden campaign did once owe such a debt is true, but the debt no longer existed by the time the e-mail about it began circulating — the obligation was not (as many people have inferred) something that was hurriedly paid off only after it was called to public attention. Whether the claim that the Biden campaign had "PAID ZERO" on that debt was true at the time Mr. Riddle originally sent his message to his "six family members" would depend on whether the message was created before or after January 2008 (which is when the Biden campaign began to pay down the debt). We can't say for sure one way or the other, as the multiply-forwarded versions of the message circulating in August 2008 didn't carry an original timestamp, and Mr. Riddle said only that he wrote it "some time ago." (We could not access records to verify the other $15,000 debt mentioned in his message.)

It is not uncommon for presidential and congressional candidates to run up millions of dollars in campaign debt, debts that can take (especially in the case of unsuccessful candidacies) many months, or even years, to repay — if they're paid off at all. As of August 2008, for example, Senator Hillary Clinton was still "trying to raise money to pay off roughly $13 million in campaign debts," and a June 2008 ABC News article on the subject noted that:

For losing candidates, campaign debts can linger for years, enduring symbols of failures they would rather forget. At the same time, the unpaid bills can cause hardships for campaign workers and vendors waiting for payment. Some end up receiving just pennies on the dollar — if they can get paid at all.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., still owes $262,358 from her failed 2004 White House bid, while the Rev. Al Sharpton owed more than $300,000 from his 2004 presidential campaign at the time of its last financial report.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, ran for president this year even though he still owed $459,000 from his failed 2004 White House race. Now he's in the hole for another $1.1 million.

One of Hillary Clinton's one-time rivals, telegenic former New York district attorney Jeanine Pirro, might want to avoid hearing any debt cases when she puts on a judicial robe in the new CW Network series, "Judge Jeanine Pirro," which debuts this fall. Pirro owes more than $500,000 from her aborted 2006 campaign for Clinton's Senate seat, records show.

"We worked on that bill for a long time and got nowhere," said Angie McAtee, vice president of Southwest Publishing, a Kansas-based direct-mail company owed $34,099 by Pirro's campaign. "They absolutely would not talk to us."

Then there is former Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, who was shadowed for more than two decades by nearly $3 million in debts from his unsuccessful 1984 presidential bid. His creditors included banks, lawyers, a bumper-sticker maker and 161 workers owed at least one week's pay each.

"I regret that it is still there. I wish that it was not there," Glenn said in a 2002 interview. "We tried, and tried very hard, to raise money afterward ... But you just get down to where you're not getting anything for all your effort." In 2005, Glenn finally gave up. He notified the Federal Election Commission that he could not pay the bills and was given permission in 2006 to disband his campaign committee.

That same article did state that Senator Biden was one of several 2008 presidential candidates still owing (as of June 2008) significant campaign debts:

On the Democratic side, in addition to Clinton and Kucinich, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware owes $1.2 million, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut owes $380,000 and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has $317,000 in debts.

Republican debtors include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who owes $3.6 million. A Giuliani spokeswoman said repaying the money is "Giuliani's No. 1 priority outside of helping to elect John McCain as president."

Technically, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads all debtors with $44 million in obligations. But most of that debt represents money he loaned his own campaign with the expectation he would not get it back.

After we completed this article, we received a subsequent e-mail from Mr. Riddle stating the following:

I sent a private e-mail to 6 family members some time ago about Joe Biden not paying his bills for services rendered. The e-mail was private and contained my contact information. One of those family members sent it to two other people. One of those other people stupidly sent it to the world with my contact information included.

I have been bombarded with phone calls and e-mails to the point of not being able to work or lead a normal life. Since the e-mail was sent out the bills have been paid in full. This matter is closed.

I would appreciate you helping me share this with the world so it will die a natural death.

Last updated:   9 October 2008


  Sources Sources:

    Sidoti, Liz and Devlin Barrett.   "Clinton to Get Roll Call at Democratic Convention."

    Associated Press.   14 August 2008.

    Siegel, Joel.   "Candidates May Have Lost Race to White House but Still Must Make Good, Vendors Say."

    ABC News.   8 June 2008.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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