Sunday, February 18, 2018
Politics

President Barack Obama to visit Miami Beach for fundraiser

President Barack Obama travels to Miami Beach on Wednesday to raise money for the Democratic Party at a private event where donations could reach $32,400 per person.

But everyone will pay for the president's visit to the waterfront home of businessman Joseph W. Blount.

It costs federal taxpayers about $180,000 per flight hour just to take Air Force One. Locally, there's a cost as well.

The city of Miami Beach budgets about $100,000 yearly for presidential visits and its taxpayers shelled out roughly $18,000 to cover security costs for the president's June 2011 fundraiser at another exclusive waterfront mansion.

In 2011, Miami Beach paid about $49,000 to cover the visits.

"We are NOT reimbursed for this expenditure," city police spokesman, Robert Hernandez, said in an email where he estimated the cost of presidential visit security at $10,000 to $55,000, "depending on the venue and length of stay."

Countywide, there's a cost, too, even if the president goes to a municipality. The Miami-Dade Police Department said the president's Oct. 11 visit cost county taxpayers about $28,978.18, said Detective Javier Baez. Other police agencies, namely the Florida Highway Patrol, were unable to provide a figure for the cost to state taxpayers.

The Democratic National Committee is required to make some reimbursements for campaign-only travel, but it doesn't cover the full-freight. For the political portion of any presidential trip, the president and those associated with political operations have to pay the government a fee that's equivalent to first-class airfare.

But taxpayers cover much of the tab, and it's unclear exactly how much it all costs.

"For operational security reasons, we do not discuss the cost of security or the numbers of law enforcement or military involved in protective visits," a U.S. Secret Service spokesman, Brian Leary, said by email.

"The Secret Service does not pay for police overtime associated with protective visits," Leary wrote. "The federal agency is not funded to pay police overtime and does not have a mechanism to do so."

There's another cost to citizens that can't be totaled: time.

The president is scheduled to fly in at 5:40 p.m., right in the middle of rush hour. Major roads will likely be closed, snarling further the already congested traffic.

The DNC fundraiser is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. General reception tickets are $1,000, those wishing to attend the "Host Clutch and Reception" will pay $20,000. The maximum contribution is $32,400.

Obama's appearance at the Blount home is a tacit recognition of the entrepreneur's contributions to Democrats and liberals in 2012: As much as $349,550, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Recently, Obama has begun ramping up his party fundraisers in the hopes that Democrats can hang on to the Senate and pick up 17 more seats in the U.S. House, where Republicans have launched multiple investigations into the president's administration and stalled his agenda.

Obama's visit to Miami-Dade is the second this year, a stark contrast to 2012 when he made multiple visits to the most-populous county of the most-populous swing state in the nation. Obama visited in March to tour Miami's port tunnel project.

Obama has made 29 visits to Florida since taking office in 2009; 15 times during 2012 and only two so far in 2013, including a four-day golfing weekend, according to CBS News' Mark Knoller, who keeps track of presidential visits.

During the election, Obama often added public events at the last minute in order to defray the political costs of presidential travel, which taxpayers largely helped fund.

But that's not unique to Obama, Brendan Doherty, a politics professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and author of the upcoming book The Rise of the President's Permanent Campaign, told the Tampa Bay Times last year in a story examining the president's frequent trips to Florida.

"Every president is hit with criticism for using taxpayer resources," Doherty, said. "But if we required presidential campaigns to pay for it all, presidents would never leave the White House because it costs so much."

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