Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Picking Up the Tab

I agree, in principle, that the Obama campaign should pay the $50k the City of Springfield says it spent hosting the presidential hopeful’s visit and speech here last month. Seems only fair since the city was being used as a backdrop for a campaign event. However, I’m not sure what other affected governmental bodies do. Do all cities bill candidates for expenses when they visit to campaign? And what about the State of Illinois? You may have noticed that on the day Obama was here, the city was flooded with State troopers.

Also, while the city may have spent $50,000, how much did it make from the event? Thousands of people came to the city and presumably spent at least some money. I live here and wound up spending money downtown I otherwise would not have. I’m not convinced the city is really out 50 grand.

In a related story, Peoria is considering charging the Aaron Schock campaign for the costs the city incurred during a fundraising visit by President Bush in July. The Schock people (of course) say they shouldn’t have to pay.
PEORIA — A policy examining how much city services should be used to secure a visiting president of the United States or other high-ranking public officials will be explored in the coming weeks, the Peoria City Council decided Tuesday.

The policy came after a discussion about newly released information from city staff members showing that President George W. Bush's July 25 visit to Peoria for a private campaign stop in support of state Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, cost city taxpayers $38,252.

Schock's campaign manager last week said the federal government will be reimbursed for the use of Air Force One according to a governmental formula that has been in place since the 1980s. The manager also said that no campaign has ever had to pay for local police protection requested by the Secret Service whenever the president visits.
And tying the two together:
PEORIA — State Rep. Aaron Schock's campaign manager said Friday that if U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign pays the local costs of police and fire protection during a visit to Springfield last month, then they might consider doing the same for Peoria.

"If (Obama) ends up paying for it, things might change," Steve Shearer said, referring to $38,000 in city of Peoria costs for police, fire and public works services on July 25, when President George W. Bush visited for a private fundraiser for Schock, R-Peoria.
Schock, who is running for the 18th Congressional District seat vacated
by retiring U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, earlier this week said the request
for his campaign to pay the money to the city is political.
I previously questioned the wisdom of this sort of visit by the president (any president) for purely political reasons, but the least that could be done in this situation is the benefiting campaign pays the costs. As Rich Miller wrote yesterday:

Might consider?

Considering that Springfield is billing Obama’s campaign for a public event that could be attended by anyone for free (unlike Schock’s purely private event that charged an admission price), Schock may have to do more than maybe consider a refund…
The only sympathy I have for Schock or Obama is on whether the campaigns have been traditionally charged for such things. But even if they have not been in the past, maybe it’s time they are. I would leave that decision up to the governmental entity providing the services, but it should be applied equally in a nonpartisan way.

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