Trump refuses to pay back cities for police, public services

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today wrote to Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub calling on the FEC to open an investigation of the Trump presidential campaign for its repeated refusal to reimburse host cities for costs incurred during Donald Trump’s campaign rallies and failure to report these debts to the FEC as is mandated by law. Pascrell’s letter comes on the heels of a Washington Post report documenting that the Trump campaign has over $1 million in unpaid bills to cities for police and other resources.

“I write to ask the Federal Election Commission (FEC) immediately open an investigation into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign debts to local law enforcement for public safety and protection services provided at campaign events,” Pascrell writes.

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Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has at least 10 open and unpaid invoices from local law enforcement and fire services dating back to 2016. These outstanding invoices total more than $841,000 for work, overtime, and protective services.  This burden has fallen mostly on small to mid-sized departments.

When a President or presidential candidate visits a city or municipality for a political event, the U.S. Secret Service often requests assistance from local law enforcement to ensure the safety of all attendees of the event. Traditionally, campaigns agree to reimburse local law enforcement for public safety and protective services required by the Secret Service. Trump has refused to abide by that tradition in stiffing cities hosting his ubiquitous rallies.

Trump campaign rallies represent a special challenge for cities because of the well-documented commonality of violence and other crimes at these events. With so many American cities cash-strapped, being denied reimbursement for protecting a presidential-level rally can be a crushing burden that endangers critical public resources. The problem of Trump’s refusal to pay has become so acute, some cities are demanding the Trump campaign pay for city expenses upfront.

“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 writes. “I ask that the FEC promptly open an investigation into this impropriety. Thank you for your time and attention to my request,” the letter concludes.

Rep. Pascrell has been one of the staunchest critics in Congress of the corruption of Donald Trump and his administration. Since February 2017, Pascrell has led congressional efforts to impose sunlight on Trump’s hidden tax returns.  As a Co-Chair of the House Law Enforcement Caucus and a former Mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, Rep. Pascrell knows well that local police departments are often face significant resource deficits.

A copy of Rep. Pascrell’s letter to the FEC chairwoman is available here, the text of which is provided below.

 

October 28, 2019

 

Ellen Weintraub

Chair

Federal Election Commission

1050 First Street NE

Washington, D.C. 20463

 

Dear Chair Weintraub:

 

I write to ask the Federal Election Commission (FEC) immediately open an investigation into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign debts to local law enforcement for public safety and protection services provided at campaign events.

As of today, I understand that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has at least 10 open and outstanding unpaid invoices from local law enforcement and fire services dating back to 2016.[i] [ii] These outstanding invoices total more than $841,000 for work, overtime, and protective services.  This burden has mostly fallen on small to mid-sized departments, such as those of Erie, PA[iii], Burlington, VT[iv] [v], Lebanon, OH[vi], Duluth, MN[vii], and El Paso, TX[viii], who have invoiced Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for repayment.

The FEC requires political committees to file regular receipt and disbursement requirements that disclose, among other information the amount and nature of outstanding debts.[ix] The FEC also requires that political campaigns report disputed debts if the creditor has provided something of value to the campaign.[x] Finally, the FEC demands that all debts and obligations owed by a political campaign be continuously reported until extinguished.[xi]

When a President or presidential candidate visits a town or city for a political event, the U.S. Secret Service often requests assistance from local law enforcement to ensure the safety of all attendees of their event. However, under existing law neither the Secret Service nor the presidential campaign is required to reimburse local law enforcement for additional manpower hours and work provided in connection to such events. Traditionally, though, political campaigns agree verbally or through written contract to reimburse local law enforcement for public safety and protective services required by the U.S. Secret Service.

The unique costs of Trump campaign rallies on our communities themselves has been well-documented. According to a June 2019 report issued by the Center for Public Integrity, political events hosted by Donald Trump’s campaign place significant burdens on local police and fire departments because of high incidents of violence. [xii] Similarly, a March 2018 study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine found that cities hosting a Trump campaign event experienced on average 2.3 more assaults than they would expect on a typical day – an increase not associated with campaign events of other presidential candidates during the same time period.[xiii]

The U.S. Secret Service often requires significant manpower and overtime from local public safety offices for crowd control, traffic management, and maintaining order at these political events[xiv]. 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.”[xv] As such, these debts and disputed debts must be reported accordingly.

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.[xvi]

Failing to reimburse local law enforcement departments for services rendered is not entirely unique to Donald Trump’s campaign. However, past candidates involved in debt disputes with local public safety officials, such as Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in his campaign for President in 2016, have reported these disputed debts on their quarterly filings with the FEC, which is to be done on quarterly Schedule C or D filings.[xvii][xviii] However, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has not reported disputed debts on quarterly filings to FEC.[xix]

As a Co-Chair of the House Law Enforcement Caucus and former Mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, I know local police departments are often cash-strapped and face significant resource deficits. These officers’ service and dedication to keeping our communities safe is invaluable and cannot be understated. It is inappropriate for anyone – foremost the President of the United States – to contend that assistance and protective services provided by local public safety officers at political rallies is not something of value.

I ask that the FEC promptly open an investigation into this impropriety. Thank you for your time and attention to my request.

Sincerely,

 

Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Member of Congress

 

cc: Lisa J. Stevenson, Acting General Counsel, Federal Election Commission

[i] https://publicintegrity.org/federal-politics/donald-trump-police-cities-bills-maga-rallies/

[ii] https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/08/trump-rallies-unpaid-bills-039631

[iii] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6140450-Erie-Pa-DOC042519-04252019080858.html

[iv] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6140445-Burlington-Police-Invoice-Trump-Event-1-7-16.html

[v] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6140444-Burlington-Fire-Invoice-2016.html

[vi] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6143048-Lebanon-Invoice.html

[vii] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6140481-Trump-Costs-Duluth-6-20-18-Police-Costs.html

[viii] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6140449-ElPaso-Invoice.html

[ix] 52 U.S.C. § 30104(b)(8)

[x] 11 C.F.R § 116.10(a)

[xi] 11 C.F.R. § 104.11(a)

[xii] https://publicintegrity.org/federal-politics/donald-trump-police-cities-bills-maga-rallies/

[xiii] https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2018/march/assaults-spiked-on-trump-rally-days-during-2016-election

[xiv] https://publicintegrity.org/federal-politics/donald-trump-police-cities-bills-maga-rallies/

[xv] 11 C.F.R. § 116.10(a)

[xvi] 11 C.F.R. § 116.10(a)

[xvii] https://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/forms/C00577130/

[xviii] 11 C.F.R. § 104.3(a)

[xix] https://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/forms/C00580100/