President Biden landed in the US Virgin Islands on Wednesday for another free vacation at the house of affluent supporters, after previous gifts prompted condemnation from ethics watchdogs, including his refusal to record the generosity on annual declaration forms.
The 81-year-old president is slated to spend six nights at Bill and Connie Neville’s three-bedroom oceanfront property on St. Croix, which is regularly available as a VRBO rental.
First wife Jill Biden, granddaughter Natalie, and maybe other members of the president’s family will accompany him to the verdant villa, which has an in-ground pool and beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea and an outlying island.
Biden stayed at the same house over the New Year’s holiday last year and didn’t pay a dime, infuriating the Nevilles because he had given them tickets to his first state dinner as president the previous month, which featured a heavily curated list of about 300 billionaires, cultural icons, and politicians to welcome French President Emmanuel Macron.
The Nevilles, who could not be reached for comment, had previously loaned the home to Biden dating back to his vice presidency and have highlighted the fact on property advertising.
“As they have done previously, the President and the First Lady are staying at the home of their friends Bill and Connie Neville,” a White House official told the NY Post.
They walked off Air Force One on Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by their 19-year-old granddaughter Natalie, the daughter of their late son Beau, and expect to stay until the New Year.
The Two Palms Villa is completely booked until April 1, 2024, and features three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a dedicated workplace, an infinity pool, a chef’s kitchen, and other facilities.
This new commercial use of the president’s name defies the White House’s position against such tactics, echoing an earlier episode in which Biden’s brother used his relationship with the president for a law business advertisement.
The Bidens are living for free in a property that would normally rent for more than $6,000 on VRBO.
Biden’s practice of taking free vacations — and then failing to disclose them on annual ethics forms — has drawn similarities to trips made by conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with real estate mogul Harlan Crow, who had no known business before the court.
Like Thomas, Biden has a lengthy history of taking free stays. But there are two key differences: Biden’s host is rarely at home, and the president goes at government cost rather than his benefactor’s.
“Joe Biden has been staying for free at donors’ homes for years and has never included these vacations on disclosure forms,” said Mark Paoletta, a longtime friend and defender of Thomas and the White House budget office’s top lawyer under President Donald Trump.
“These are not longtime friends, they are wealthy donors, so there’s no excuse to not disclose. But because his name is not Clarence Thomas, who visits his friends at their homes and does not have to report, the media don’t care. They protect Biden and are only interested in one side.”
CNN reported on the Bidens’ vacation and did not utter a word of criticism.
Bill Neville, 61, is the creator of the Viking software firm in the United States, which produces the ENPS news content platform, which is sold by the Associated Press. He and his wife, Connie, are both from Alabama and have given to both Republicans and Democrats, including Biden.
According to the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority, 800 news outlets, including the BBC and ESPN, use Viking’s software to “easily search multimedia content,” “easily adapt stories for digital publishing,” and “seamlessly integrate with digital and social media platforms.”
Biden has been at other expensive houses for free, including a seven-day visit in August at the nine-bedroom Kiawah Island, South Carolina, property of donor Maria Allwin, whose family operates a hedge fund, according to a source. (First Lady Jill Biden had to remain longer because she had COVID-19.)
The Nevilles, well-known Democratic contributors and IT sector veterans from Alabama, are believed to be worth a billion dollars. Their generosity extends to charitable efforts, such as fundraising for St. Croix’s animal care organizations.
The Bidens have been visiting St. Croix practically every year since 2008. Notably, Biden visited the island frequently as vice president and was the first sitting president to do so since Bill Clinton’s visit in the 1990s.