Newport Beach Bills Obama and Romney for Fundraiser Security

Who should bear the cost of extra policing for candidate events?

Newport Beach, California has billed the Romney and Obama campaigns for the additional security costs that their respective fundraisers cost the city. Romney has paid; Obama has not.

LA Times (“Secret Service won’t pay Newport Beach for police at Obama event“):

A Secret Service official said Newport Beach city administrators are asking the wrong people to pay for police protection at presidential campaign events.

It’s the service that is responsible for the candidates’ security, not the campaigns, said Max Milien, an agency spokesman. Any cost concerns should be directed to the agency.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff billed the campaigns of President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney for police security at their separate fundraisers this year in the city.

Now that the Romney campaign paid its bill, the city is left in the awkward position of trying to collect from Obama.

“We cannot reimburse any agencies,” Milien said. “We make that clear from Day 1.”

Milien explained that an advance team works with local law enforcement to plan road closures and other measures before a candidate’s visit. If the local agency cannot afford to pay for extra security or overtime, the local officials should inform the Secret Service ahead of time, he said.

In that case, Milien said, the Secret Service would seek help from other law enforcement groups — county or state police, for example, who would not charge for the service.


The city was “honored” to have the president in town, Kiff said, but he viewed the campaign fundraisers as private events.

“Had this been a ‘business trip’ — if the president came to Newport Beach to talk about one of his policies with our residents — the city would not have sent an invoice,” he wrote in an email.

The city’s position strikes me as reasonable. And Kiff claims that he did in fact raise these concerns with the Secret Service and was told to take it up with the campaign.

The notion that presidential fundraisers should impose an unfunded mandate on states and municipalities to provide security is absurd; it’s potentially bankrupting. Even a “business trip,” frankly, ought to be funded by the federal taxpayer, not the localities.

That said, this is the first I’ve heard of cities billing campaigns for security. If in fact this is a customary or even somewhat common practice, it would be strange, indeed, to require the opposition party’s campaign to pay for the cost of additional security while the Secret Service provides security for the incumbent at taxpayer expense. It’s bad enough that the incumbent gets ferried around in a taxpayer-funded jet and limo while the opposition has to pay for that sort of thing out of pocket; but there’s not really any way around that given the difficulty of segregating the president’s “official business” from his “campaign related activities.” Frankly, anything a first-term president does is, in some sense, related to his re-election campaign.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    The Obama campaign has apparantly paid some of what Springfield, Illinois has asked for reimbursement for security, but still owes $55k according to the city. Link This is the city where Obama announced he was running for President and later returned to officially announce that Biden would be his running mate. They were not fundraisers, but political rallies.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    In 2004 the City of Portland billed the Bush campaign for security costs from a fundraiser and was never paid.

  3. Robert Levine says:

    It’s worth noting that the Secret Service provides extensive security to the opposition candidate. I vividly remember a massive traffic jam in Milwaukee the first day that McCain and Palin campaigned after the 2008 Convention, when about 15 miles of I-43 south were closed so that their bus could travel securely from Cedarburg to Milwaukee airport. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t done at the instigation of local law enforcement.

    I don’t know if the Secret Service bills the opposition campaign for security, although I’m inclined to doubt it. Also worth noting is the fact that the incumbent’s campaign does pay for the use of AF 1 when campaigning, although I don’t know at what rates. I seem to recall that press are billed at commercial first-class airfare rates, which likely understates the actual level of service they receive.

    Having said that, the one time I had personal experience of security surrounding an opposition campaign didn’t leave me with a very positive impression of how good that security actually was. I suspect (and hope) that the security around the incumbent is better than what I saw.

  4. DRS says:

    I suspect that the Secret Service, like any branch of government or large-enough corporation, isn’t really all that into cost control. And with their – shall we say: patchy? – record of protecting incumbents and candidates from getting shot over the past fifty years, you can kind of understand their thinking: “How much is the president’s/governor’s/senator’s/candidate’s life worth!?!??! We can’t take the risk!”

    So while I’m sympathetic to the city’s argument, I’d like to see that it actually leads to some discussion about how much security is enough/not enough/too much and whether that means a re-think of “the usual way of doing things”. Inertia is a powerful force in any public or private bureaucracy, and that’s the case here too.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    The city was “honored” to have the president in town, Kiff said, but he viewed the campaign fundraisers as private events.
    “Had this been a ‘business trip’ — if the president came to Newport Beach to talk about one of his policies with our residents — the city would not have sent an invoice,” he wrote in an email.

    This is Kabuki, pure and simple – the city had to show their citizens that they were going after the Feds for reimbursement, and the Feds will, accordingly, treat this request with the respect and attention it deserves (none.)

  6. I wonder what would happen if a city refused to provide any campaign security unless a bond was posted in advance to cover the expenses?

  7. The Q says:

    Wasn’t the person he visited a resident of Newport Beach? Does he/she not pay for services?
    Does this person have these events regularly or is this a once in every 4 year event?

    I am sure this person pays whopping local and state taxes in the tens of thousands, so over the years, wouldn’t he/she have paid in way more than the services rendered?

    What next, calling cops after 12 midnight and having to pay the “late night premium”?

    And what if your house fire is so large that you have to bring in 2 fire companies to fight it?

    Charge extra for the extra help?

    This country is going down faster than even I could have imagined.

  8. The Q says:

    P.S. thats newport beach, california – orange county, die hard John Wayne land, not Virginia.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @The Q: Ah, that makes more sense! I was wondering why LAT was covering this but WaPo wasn’t. But, having lived in Virginia the last decade and having a military orientation, that’s the only Newport Beach I know of. Fixed the lede.

  10. Dexter says:

    I certainly hope that the residents of Charlotte, NC will not see 1 cent of their tax money go for any aspect of the Democrat convention.