NEWS BLOG (WSAU) President Obama made his fourth visit to Wisconsin since being elected. I don’t begrudge the President the privilege of traveling around the country. And he’s free to speak on any topic that he wants to place on the national agenda during his appearances.
But the traveling White House is very expensive. The advance teams, security, planning, and logistics of having the President “in the field” are tremendous costs. Local communities are also expected to cover the costs of police overtime, and local law enforcement is always involved in traffic control, crowd control, and perimeter security.
There have been some towns, particularly during heated campaigns, that have specifically asked candidates to stay away because the visits are law-enforcement budget busters.
The rules of paying for the President’s travel have always been like this: taxpayers cover the expenses when the President is on official business. If the President is making a campaign trip, his campaign fund (not the taxpayers) are supposed to cover the costs beyond personal security. If the President is traveling to a political fundraiser, travel costs are supposed to come out of the money raised at the event.
The fundraiser provision has been abused by Bush-42, Clinton, Bush-43, and Barack Obama. All of these presidents have scheduled political fundraisers and public appearances on the same day in nearby cities. By appearing at a daycare center, a factory, or a school to give a speech, the trip becomes classified as official business. The real business is the fat-cat luncheon or dinner that the President goes to right after the event.
That’s exactly what happened today in Milwaukee. President Obama had scheduled a fundraiser with Tom Barrett months ago. Democratic donors were told to expect a Presidential visit last April. The President’s visit to a lithium-battery factory in Menomonee Falls was scheduled on a few days notice. The official part of the trip was an after-thought. The President will be doing the same thing tonight in California, and tomorrow in Ohio.
President Obama is no better or worse than his predecessors. As a reporter, I covered George W. Bush’s visit to an after-school reading program in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was there for 15-minutes before being whisked off to a fundraising luncheon on Greenwich. I also covered Bill Clinton’s visit to Westport, Connecticut. The children at the YMCA after-school program prepared a lunch for the President. He couldn’t stay and eat, though. He was scheduled for a fundraiser hosted by Martha Stewart at the Saugatuck Yacht Club.
My how the rules get bent when we’re raising money for our political allies.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau