Obama’s bus tour costing taxpayers thousands
- Mark Knoller
Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, N.C., Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011.
(Credit: AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain or any of the other presidential
challengers were to embark on a three-day bus trip like the one now underway by
President Obama, it would cost their campaigns tens of thousands of dollars.
They would have to pay a variety of expenses, including:
- air travel to their first destination
- leasing of one or more buses appropriate to the journey
- rental for halls or meeting rooms for their candidates’ appearances
- the cost of lodging and meals for their candidate and staff
But not the Obama campaign. The White House declared that Mr. Obama’s
three-day trip through North Carolina and Virginia are official events and not
campaign appearances, even though the two states are known to be political
objectives of his re-election bid.
So Mr. Obama’s expenses are borne by taxpayers, including:
- the pro-rated costs of his flights aboard Marine One and Air Force One that
brought him to his first stop yesterday in Asheville, NC
- the two buses used by him and his staff, owned and operated by the United
States Secret Service
- costs associated with setting up speech sites including microphones,
speakers, amplifiers, teleprompters and TV lights
- lodging and meals for the president and his political staff
It’s an advantage enjoyed by every incumbent president seeking re-election —
and a disadvantage endured by his challengers. And though the White House has
said the trip is not political, Mr. Obama has repeatedly used his speeches to
take Republicans to task for opposing the provisions of his jobs bill.
“They said no to putting teachers and construction workers back on the job,”
the president said yesterday in Asheville. “They said no to rebuilding our roads
and our bridges and our airports. They said no to cutting taxes for middle-class
families and small businesses when all they’ve been doing is cutting taxes for
the wealthiest Americans.”
He continued: “They want to gut regulations; they want to let Wall Street do
whatever it wants. They want to drill more. And they want to repeal health care
reform. That’s their jobs plan.”
On the Senate floor Monday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., raised concerns about
the partisan rhetoric from his 2008 presidential rival.
“In fact, I was somewhat taken aback, since the president and his
spokesperson had billed his trip as a taxpayer-paid visit,” said McCain.
He said Mr. Obama has the right to express his views about GOP policies but
wondered, “is that appropriate on the taxpayers’ dime? Since it is clearly
A day before the trip begin, White House officials held a conference call
with reporters and repeatedly made the case that the president’s trip was about
the jobs bill, not his re-election, even though he was traveling in states he
won in 2008 and wants to keep in his column next year as well.
Some of Mr. Obama’s bus trip events had the sound and feel of campaign
rallies. As he arrived in Asheville for his first event, his audience on the
tarmac chanted, “Four more years!”
And Mr. Obama himself would shift into the higher-decibel, campaign-style
cadence that served him so well as a candidate for president three years
If this bus trip was billed as a political journey, his campaign and/or the
Democratic party would be paying the costs, but not as much as his presidential
challengers might. He could still ride the 747s that serve as Air Force One, and
pay only a small pro-rated portion of the expense, as per Federal Election
To date, the White House has refused repeated requests from CBS News to
disclose its calculations of how much the Obama campaign or DNC must reimburse
the government for Mr. Obama’s political travel expenses.