BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – Outraged taxpayer advocates slammed President Obama for lavishly politicking on the taxpayers’ dime last night, as Boston ran up a hefty tab providing security so the Democratic incumbent could breeze in and out of town for a series of re-election events.
“It’s an atrocious waste of taxpayer money,” said David Tuerck, a government ethics watchdog with Suffolk University. “There is no taxpayer interest in any of this. It’s all about getting him re-elected, and the campaign should pay for everything.”
Mayor Thomas M. Menino rebuffed questions about security costs.
“(It’s) the president of the United States, and I respect the office he holds,” Menino told WBZ-radio. “I’m not gonna let petty politics play any part of what the presidential visit (means) to the city of Boston.”
Menino added that he wants to make sure the president has a great visit to Boston.
“It’s very exciting for the city. I’ll just say we’re honored by having him here tonight,” Menino said.
City Hall refused to provide a cost estimate, but one city official predicted it could run between $150,000 to $200,000 to provide security for Obama, in town on a $3.1 million fundraising tear. The Boston Police Department had hordes of officers outside Hamersley’s Bistro in the South End and at Symphony Hall. Boston police will also likely provide security as Obama stays the night and leaves this morning.
“Given that many municipalities are facing budget crunches of their own, squeezing them even further for political events can grate on a lot of residents’ nerves,” said Pete Sepp, vice president of the conservative-leaning National Taxpayers Union. He argued that presidents from both political parties should pick up their campaign tabs.
“This is a major problem of incumbency. They utilize Air Force One and all trappings to make political trips, and they only pay a portion of it with their campaign funds,” he said.
Obama, who gave a warm endorsement to Elizabeth Warren during last night’s fundraiser in the packed Symphony Hall, focused on rallying supporters. He admitted his race against Mitt Romney will be tough but urged voters to stick with him.
“This election will be close. It will be close because there are a lot of folks who are going through a tough time,” he said. “I believe in you and if you believe in me … then I need you to stand with me for a second term as president.”
Obama’s campaign pays for a portion of the $182,000-an-hour cost of operating Air Force One and his presidential motorcade, said campaign officials last night, but they did not detail how much.
The cost of protecting Obama almost halted a campaign visit yesterday in Durham, N.H., where residents protested paying for the political event. A private donor eventually covered the cost of the trip to the city, which only served to raise objections among conservatives about the secrecy.