Donald Trump’s vulgarity and divisiveness at a recent rally in Minneapolis, Minn. garnered extensive media coverage.
Yet another aspect of Trump’s first rally since House Democrats opened an impeachment inquiry getting little coverage is how Minneapolis is preventing winding up on the list of cities left footing unpaid security bills.
“Cities are already stretched extremely thin, so to force us to pay all of the associated costs when president trump comes to town for a campaign rally, I think plainly it is unfair and so I believe that the President of the United States should pay his bills, even if he really doesn’t like paying his bills.”
|Municipality||Rally date||Unpaid bill||What government officials say|
|El Paso, Texas||Feb. 11, 2019||$470,417.05||“I’m hopeful they’ll pay. I’m hopeful they’ll do what’s right. People that don’t pay their bills — that’s a character integrity issue.” — El Paso Mayor Dee Margo|
|Tucson, Ariz.||May 19, 2016||$81,837.00||“In connection with these events, we will always provide the law enforcement and public safety support and response that is necessary to ensure the safety of the public. But [in the future] we intend to use revised agreements that identify certain costs that we expect the campaign to cover.” — Tucson Chief of Staff Lane Mandle|
|Spokane, Wash.||May 7, 2016||$65,124.69||“I would expect anyone who is billed for police services to pay their fair share.” — Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart … Police officials are attempting to collect payment from the Trump campaign and “councilmembers have urged them to be proactive in collecting that bill.” — Spokane City Councilmember Breean Beggs … “Let’s be honest, when does Trump ever pay his bills?” — Spokane City Council member Kate Burke|
|Mesa, Ariz.||Oct. 19, 2018||$64,467.56||“It is our hope that the organization will do right by the taxpayers of Mesa and provide payment in a timely manner.” — Mesa Deputy City Manager Scott Butler|
|Eau Claire, Wis.||Apr. 2, 2016||$47,398.00|
|Billings, Mont.||Sept. 6, 2018||$42,811.00||“The chief of police made an in-person request to Trump’s campaign manager for the Billings office for reimbursement. No payment received and no communication.” — Billings Police Chief Rich St. John|
|Erie, Pa.||Oct. 10, 2018||$35,129.27||“We believed that the level of security that was required was costly and that it was reasonable for us to be reimbursed given the fact that it was a campaign rally, and the president was also here conducting a high-end fundraiser.” — Renée M. Lamis, chief of staff for Erie Mayor Joe Schember|
|Lebanon, Ohio||Oct. 12, 2018||$16,191.00||“There’s a lot of benefit when a president comes here: economic benefits, more visibility for our community. It’s exciting and great for the community. But I would hope and believe the Trump campaign would pay its bills. It’s our taxpayer dollars.” — Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer|
|Green Bay, Wis.||Aug. 5, 2016||$9,380.00||“We appreciate, and we feel honored, when the candidates come to Green Bay. We are also very appreciative when they honor their debts.” — Celestine Jeffreys, chief of staff for Mayor Jim Schmitt|
|Burlington, Vt.||Jan. 7, 2016||$8,464.27||“Mr. Trump’s failure to cooperate with local law enforcement officials and lack of communication with the public and ticketholders put undue strain on the City’s police, and unnecessarily hurt downtown businesses. Paying the invoice remains the right and honorable thing for Mr. Trump to do.” — Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, in June 2016|
|Source: Center for Public Integrity interviews with municipal officials, municipal records and statements|
At a MAGA rally on Oct. 12, 2018, in Lebanon, Ohio, Trump shouted out his support for the police officers, whom he hailed as “heroes.”
Mayor Amy Brewer explained:
“There’s a lot of benefit when a president comes here: economic benefits, more visibility for our community. But I would hope and believe the Trump campaign would pay its bills. It’s our taxpayer dollars.”
Richard Myers, a former police chief and executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, told the Center for Public Integrity:
“The fiscal impact on local governments, especially during campaign seasons in critical vote states or communities, can be significant. When one considers how much money campaigns raise and spend, it does not seem unreasonable to expect some degree of reimbursement for such demands for service.”
Mesa, Ariz. Deputy City Manager Scott Butler added:
“It is our hope that [Trump’s campaign] will do right by the taxpayers of Mesa and provide payment.”
Some municipalities are not so sanguine, however.
Kate Burke, Spokane, Wash. city council member, commented:
“Let’s be honest, when does Trump ever pay his bills?”
The city holding the lion’s share of unpaid bills is El Paso, Texas the Trump campaign owes $470,417 for a rally back in February.
City council Rep. Alexsandra Annello told the El Paso Times:
“It shows a lack of concern for the community and the taxpaying voters of El Paso. President Trump has in many ways, over the last year, put a financial burden on this community and has yet to show us the respect we deserve. It is clear that our borderland is not a priority of the president.”
Former Texas Rep. and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke held a smaller counter-rally outside the Trump rally, costing the city $21,000.
He paid it back before the due date.
El Paso Mayor Donald “Dee” Margo is “hopeful” Trump will eventually pay.
“I’m hopeful they’ll do what’s right. People that don’t pay their bills—that’s a character integrity issue.”
60 cities have policies against charging politicians for police costs; others chose not to specifically charge Trump, like Youngstown, Ohio, where a recent Trump campaign stop cost taxpayers $11,147 for 48 police officers.
While it’s true presidential campaigns are expensive, the Trump re-election campaign is not short on cash.
Moreover, even though election law requires campaigns report debts, including those deemed “disputed,” the Trump campaign has not reported any to municipal governments or police departments in Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.
In addition to standard traffic and crowd control, police departments face a unique challenge when it comes to Trump rallies: violence.
A University of Pennsylvania study found cities that hosted Trump experienced an average of 2.3 more assaults on those days than others.
(Those still inclined to throw up Hillary Clinton as a false equivalency might be interested to know the same UPenn study found no such violent link to her rallies.)
Washington, D.C. has had to chip away at a special fund for hosting large demonstrations, foreign dignitary visits, and other non-routine events as well as city security costs because of the $7 million Congress has traditionally defrayed.
So much for “We love you and will always support you,” as Trump tweeted in January on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
So much for “For you guys, anything I can do I’ll do,” which he promised at the annual convention of International Association of Chiefs of Police last year.
So much for “America’s police officers have earned the everlasting gratitude of our nation” Trump tweeted last October.
Who picks up the tab when the Trump circus comes to town and refuses to pay?
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