St. John got a little free, albeit slightly controversial, publicity on Monday, May 21, when CNN’s Anderson Cooper delivered a special report on “taxpayers paying for overpriced junkets to exotic places” on his evening news report.
The recent visit by a congressional delegation to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which saw the group spend one night at the Caneel Bay Resort, was one of several recent trips by congressional delegations using U.S. Air Force “$85 million Boeing executive jets” at a cost of “$10,000 per day,” according to the report, which was repeated several times on Tuesday, May 22.
After repeated promotions leading up to the airing of the investigative report on junkets by members of congress which Cooper referred to as “your tax dollars getting congressmen to beach resorts,” the congressional delegation’s Easter stop at Caneel Bay was singled out for scrutiny.
One Night at Caneel Bay
While other delegations traveled around the world on missions of dubious merit, a congressional delegation (codel) of the House Committee on Homeland Secur-ity, including V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen, traveled to Mexico, Honduras, the Virgin Islands and Key West, according to the report.
“One night they stayed here at the Caneel Bay Resort,” Cooper said in a voice-over while a resort brochure was displayed.
Only Rooms Available
The congressman heading the delegation, Rep. Bennie Thom-pson, D-Miss., defended the stay at Caneel when asked “was that stop a mistake?”
It would have been questionable “if it were not the only thing available,” according to the congressman.
“It was the only hotel on the island that had a vacancy,” Rep. Thompson said in an on-camera interview.
The report also questioned the fact the 13 hours of flight time for the Homeland Security delegation cost taxpayers $130,000.
“With less than 24 hours spent in each stop, it would have been utterly impossible to do that trip with commercial air transportation,” Thompson said.
The congressional delegation conducted a public hearing on St. Thomas before the delegation traveled to Caneel Bay to spend the evening.
No Report on Immigrant Smuggling Problem
Christensen has been agitating for a Border Patrol unit for the USVI because of the high incidence of illegal immigrant trafficking.
The territory currently has a small U.S. Coast Guard marine detachment, but relies on USCG vessels operating out of Puerto Rico for interdiction and search and rescue operations.
Cooper’s CNN report made no mention of the the territory’s illegal immigration problem.