As the 2020 election draws closer, campaigns strive to get final messages out to voters. In the case of the campaign of incumbent President Donald Trump, their message seems to be to try to create a scandal associated with Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
On Wednesday, four House Republicans sent a letter of concern to Amtrak—the federally subsidized railroad—questioning former Vice President Joe Biden's use of the railway during his campaign. GOP Representatives Eric A. "Rick" Crawford of Arkansas, Bob Gibbs of Ohio and Scott Perry and Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania claimed Biden received "special treatment."
The four Republican lawmakers wrote:
"We are concerned that the apparent use of a struggling, resource-deprived, publicly-run service for political gain does not serve the best interests of Amtrak or the American taxpayers at this time."
As with many of the Republicans' other attempts to associate a scandal with Biden, the effort blew back onto the GOP's own candidate.
In response to the letter from the four GOP Representatives, Biden spokesman Matt Hill said:
"[A]nyone can charter a train with Amtrak."
"Last time we checked, no one can charter the White House South Lawn for a political convention."
"Instead of wasting time on political stunts, congressional Republicans should stop ignoring Donald Trump's blatant abuses of taxpayer money and government resources to enrich himself and his businesses."
Biden also issued a statement on Twitter.
The former VP explained why using Amtrak—as opposed to flying around the country like his opponent does on Air Force One—was so important to him.
The Republican Congressmen's concerns were quickly shot down by Amtrak in a statement which said:
"[N]o discounts or scheduling preference [was given to Biden].
"[T]he railroad industry has a long history of operating special trains for public officials on both sides of the aisle and Amtrak has been part of that."
In their filing with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Biden campaign recorded $265,000 for the train charter. According to Amtrak's schedule of fees, the starting rate for a charter is just $30,000.
Amtrak's statement said:
"We can't provide the cost, but can share that we did make money, as we aim to do for any charter."
"Operation of charter trains is an important revenue source for Amtrak and one that supports other parts of our business. Customers range from sports teams to businesses, historical groups and even individuals whose private railcars are coupled to our trains."
"In this instance, the rate aligns with our standard practice and market rates that anyone seeking this service would be charged. There were no discounts or scheduling preferences."
The four Republican Congressmen—all up for reelection in 2020—found few people agreeing with their concerns.
In regards to the latest GOP accusation against Biden, former federal government ethics and oversight official and deputy director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Donald K. Sherman, said:
"[The GOP Representatives concerns are] somewhat laughable in the face of blatant abuse by the Trump administration of the enormous resources at its disposal."
"It's hard to compare them, in part because Joe Biden doesn't work for the government. It's like apples and bicycles."
"This administration has bent and broken the rules limiting the administration's use of official government resources and authority for campaigning on a near-daily basis leading up to the election."