Democrat asks FEC to investigate Trump campaign declining to pay police bills

A House Democrat on Monday asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate whether President Trump’s reelection campaign is violating campaign finance rules by failing to report disputed reimbursements to local law enforcement for protection at campaign events.

The Trump campaign has declined to reimburse local officials who provide security assurance during Trump’s campaign rallies across the country.

{mosads}The Trump campaign has not paid at least 10 bills totaling more than $841,000 sent by local governments to cover public safety costs, according to a June report by the Center for Public Integrity. And The Albuquerque Journal reported last week that the city had sent a bill to the Trump campaign for $211,000 in costs for a September rally, including more than $71,000 in police overtime. 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey also said earlier this month that he would ask the Trump campaign to pay $530,000 for security costs associated with a campaign rally. That prompted an angry tweet from Trump, who wrote that “someone please tell the Radical Left Mayor of Minneapolis that he can’t price out Free Speech. Probably illegal!”
All told, the estimated total bills sent by localities amount to more than $1 million at this point.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) called on the FEC to investigate whether the Trump campaign is violating campaign finance rules by failing to report the disputed debts on its quarterly filings.

“Donald Trump’s presidential campaign may ignore their obligation to reimburse local officials for the significant assistance provided at these political events. But FEC regulations on reporting disputed debts clearly state that these disputes must be reported until the dispute is resolved,” Pascrell wrote in a letter to FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub.

“These events draw crowds far larger than the local officials are accustomed to handling. The work and assistance provided by these officers ensures these political events run smoothly and safely for all involved, including the President of the United States and candidates for our highest office. This is assuredly ‘something of value’ provided ‘by a creditor to a political committee.’ As such, these debts and disputed debts must be reported accordingly,” Pascrell wrote.

Campaigns are not necessarily required to reimburse local governments for security assistance provided at campaign events. Cities often do not have binding contracts with campaigns to guarantee reimbursement for the costs. But some presidential candidates choose to pay police bills.

The 2016 campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for example, initially refused to pay for public safety bills from nearly two dozen local governments and law enforcement agencies totaling more than $449,000, according to the Center for Public Integrity. But the Sanders campaign still disclosed the disputed debts while initially refusing to pay the police tabs.

The Sanders campaign eventually paid the bills ahead of his current run for president. 

A number of Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to reimburse municipal governments that send them public safety bills, including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Some local governments have found ways to require the Trump campaign to sign an agreement to pay for expenses while using their municipal facilities. For example, the Trump campaign paid $49 per hour for each police officer at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium during a rally in March 2017 and $50 per hour in May 2018, according to the Center for Public Integrity. 

Tags Albuquerque Bernie Sanders Bill Pascrell Cory Booker Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren FEC Minneapolis Pete Buttigieg St. Paul
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