Election 2020

Who should cover the cost of President Trump's Minneapolis campaign rally?

President Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Cincinnati.
President Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, in Cincinnati.
Alex Brandon | AP Photo

The Minneapolis Police Department has canceled days off for its officers this week, and they’re pulling in help from other departments: federal, state and county law enforcement, as well as transit police and officers from the University of Minnesota campus.

The extra staffing is needed for President Trump’s Thursday evening campaign rally at the Target Center, where thousands of supporters and opponents of the president are expected to converge on downtown Minneapolis.

The city of Minneapolis is preparing for a large crowd. The Target Center can hold 20,000 people, and several Facebook protest events have already attracted tens of thousands of people who are attending or interested in protesting outside of the rally.

“This isn't our first rodeo,” said Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder. “Our eyes are wide open to the factors that we may be facing.”

It’s going to cost the city, but officials shouldn’t expect the Trump campaign to reimburse them.

A recent investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that the Trump campaign generally doesn’t reimburse local governments for extra costs that result from his campaign rallies. His campaign has at least nine unpaid invoices from cities for extra costs totaling more than $840,000, according to the report. Trump raised $125 million for his 2020 re-election bid in the third quarter of this year alone.

Trump doesn’t have to pay the city back. The Federal Election Commission doesn’t have any rules requiring campaigns to cover local costs, but some candidates do pay them.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar's campaign said there were private security officers and city police at her presidential campaign kick-off at Boom Island in Minneapolis in February, but the campaign reimbursed the city for the officers, as well as the parking lot and park rental.

Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign did not return requests for comment on whether they reimbursed the city of St. Paul for extra costs related to an August campaign rally that attracted thousands.

Some cities don’t even bother billing federal candidates for their visits. The city of Duluth didn't invoice Trump after his campaign rally last fall because officials have been told in the past that they shouldn't expect to get any reimbursement from federal candidates, city spokesperson Kate Van Daele said. That rally cost Duluth $69,000, according to a data request.

Rochester sent a bill to Trump for more than $90,000 for local costs for a campaign rally last October, the Rochester Post Bulletin reported, but city officials haven't heard anything back.

The Trump campaign will pay to rent the Target Center, which is owned by the city and managed by a private company, and a presidential visit brings people in from all over the state and neighboring states who could stay in hotels and eat at restaurants in downtown Minneapolis.

City of Minneapolis Chief Financial Officer Mark Ruff said there’s no way to know the total bill until after the event is over, but they aren’t expecting to make money off of the president’s visit.

“We don’t operate to make profits on these types of events,” Ruff said. “We have these kinds of facilities because they are overall a benefit to the public.”

Ruff also said the city hasn't decided yet how the cost of the visit will be covered. Costs to other cities have ranged from $10,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars for things such as extra law enforcement, staff overtime and traffic control.

A Trump rally in El Paso, Texas, near the Mexico border earlier this year cost local officials nearly $500,000 for security and other costs. That rally attracted more than 20,000 people both inside and outside protesting the rally.

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