Politics & Government

President Trump plans to rally in Dallas. Will his campaign pay all the bills?

A string of unpaid bills for previous rallies will follow President Donald Trump into his Dallas appearance later this month.

At least 10 cities have not been reimbursed for all the costs associated with Trump’s election rallies, particularly for police and public safety work, according to a study released in June by The Center for Public Integrity.

“The Trump campaign is notorious for not paying its bills,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Cities are likely to be more cautious in extending services they might not get reimbursed for.”

A number of city governments say Trump’s campaign hasn’t reimbursed them for public-safety related costs totaling more than $840,000, the study shows.

“Trump is infamous for his unresolved deals and disputes in business, so this is perhaps no surprise,” said Emily Farris, a political science professor at TCU.

“The tricky part for cities is that while they think the Trump campaign should pay, few have signed contracts obligating his campaign to pay and, regardless, they have an obligation to provide for public safety. “

Trump’s campaign is planning a Keep America Great rally at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

He has held several rallies in North Texas, including one at the AA Center in Dallas in 2015, one at Gilley’s nightclub in Dallas in 2016 and one at the Fort Worth Convention Center in 2016.

Records were not immediately available to show whether he paid the police and fire costs associated with the North Texas events.

Fort Worth rally

A review of the contract for Trump’s February 2016 rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center showed his campaign paid 10,050 to rent the convention center space, $2,207 for labor and $920 for equipment.

Trump rallies generally include a significant amount of police work for everything from closing streets to crowd control. So local governments that perform those services during a rally for Trump or any other candidate then bill presidential campaigns.

Trump isn’t the only candidate who hasn’t paid all the rally bills.

A separate study by The Center for Public Integrity shows that Trump, as well as Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, left security bills for campaign events unpaid in dozens of communities during the 2016 presidential election.

A Sanders attorney has argued that the campaign never asked for the security at some campaign events, so it shouldn’t have to pay. But that study also showed that when Sanders embarked upon another presidential bid, his staff went back and paid overdue public safety bills.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas “meticulously paid police bills” during his 2016 presidential bid because he put a “high value on running an organized campaign,” the study said.

Unpaid bills

The Center for Public Integrity’s study found the president’s biggest invoice, for $470,417, was from El Paso, where Trump held a rally in February.

Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke held a smaller rally on the same day in El Paso. Reports show he paid his more than $21,000 police bill on time.

The city of El Paso sent a letter to the Trump campaign, trying to get the bill paid.

“We realize this may be an oversight on your part; however, your account with the City of El Paso is extremely past due,” according to the letter, obtained by the El Paso Times. “Your obligation to pay the invoice listed will remain on the City’s books indefinitely until the debt is paid in full.”

When the bill remained unpaid, the city added a 21% late fee, bumping the total bill to nearly $570,000, the Texas Tribune reported.

“The principal reason the Trump campaign has not paid some cities is due to disputes over the size of the bill, with the Trump campaign often disputing the amount charged by the city for police and other security,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.

Other unpaid public safety bills from Trump rallies include those from Tuscon, Arizona; Spokane, Washington.; Mesa, Arizona; Eau Claire, Wisconsin.; Billings, Montana; Erie, Pennsylvania.; Lebanon, Ohio; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Burlington, Vermont, according to the study.

“As a political issue, a Republican businessman who doesn’t pay his bills might have a hard time appealing to fiscal conservatives who take financial responsibility as a point of pride,” Rottinghaus said.

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This story was originally published October 2, 2019 6:00 AM.

Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.
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