Next time he should probably stay home.
Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence, and Maj. Gen. Courtney P. Carr stand for the national anthem before leaving the Colts-49ers game on Oct. 8, 2017. Photo by Myles Cullen/Official White House.
A government watchdog group has totaled the cost of Vice President Mike Pence’s brief bit of ham-fisted political theatre at an NFL game in October.
Pence, who previously served as governor of Indiana and has always made a blustery show of his Colts fandom, schlepped across the country to attend a game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. He didn’t stay very long, showily exiting in a huff after one or two players protested police brutality during the national anthem.
While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don't think it's too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem— Vice President Mike Pence (@Vice President Mike Pence)1507483416.0
I stand with @POTUS Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem. https://t.co/B0zP5M41MQ— Vice President Mike Pence (@Vice President Mike Pence)1507483472.0
Of course, all of this was by design. Pence had planned to bolt, telling reporters in advance to hang around just in case something newsworthy transpired. Further, when pressed as to whether this was little more than a bit of clumsy, obvious grandstanding, his staff explained that the stopover in Indianapolis was fine because the vice president absolutely had to fly from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C., within the span of 24 hours only to turn around and fly back to California. (No, that doesn't make any sense.)
And because all this came at the height of the president’s ongoing battle with the NFL, Trump decided he couldn’t let his veep steal all the glory.
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 (@Donald J. Trump)1507486576.0
And Pence couldn’t even be bothered to snap a selfie at the actual game. Here’s what he tweeted a few minutes before kickoff:
Looking forward to cheering for our @Colts & honoring the great career of #18 Peyton Manning at @LucasOilStadium to… https://t.co/symhJIske8— Vice President Mike Pence (@Vice President Mike Pence)1507476467.0
If that photo looks familiar, it should. The photo was actually taken three years ago.
Cheering on our @colts w/@FirstLadyIN as they kick off the 2nd half! Go #Colts, beat Jaguars! #JAXvsIND http://t.co/V42n392s1O— Governor Mike Pence (@Governor Mike Pence)1416771938.0
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit organization which monitors and publicizes possible ethics violations by the U.S. government, filed an Access to Public Records Act request to see how much the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department coughed up for Pence’s brief sojourn back to his home state.
The grand total? $14,163.36.
In a statement, CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said, “The tone is set at the top when it comes to this administration’s disregard for ethics. Vice President Pence should know better than to use taxpayer money to make a rhetorical point, but carelessness with taxpayer money seems to be a common theme with senior administration officials.”
The funds spent by local law enforcement come on top of the $242,500 the U.S. government already doled out, as calculated by CNN:
“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.
The grand total: about $242,500.”
That brings the total cost of Pence’s stunt to roughly $256,000.
It’s not quite the $1 million spent on private travel by former Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, but maybe the next time Pence wants to wrap himself in the flag and disregard the real reasons for players’ protests, he can do so while plunked on his couch and shouting at the TV, like every other red-blooded American.