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Obama?s Swing-State Trips a Misuse of Taxpayer Funds
According to http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2012/0...axpayer-funds/
Republicans have filed a complaint with government investigators charging that President Barack Obama is misusing taxpayer funds by traveling to important battleground states for what they say appear to be thinly veiled campaign events.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office dated Wednesday maintaining that the president is cutting his campaign costs by using Air Force One and government-supplied transportation under the guise of official travel.
?Throughout his administration, but particularly in recent weeks, President Obama has been passing off campaign travel as ?official events,? thereby allowing taxpayers, rather than his campaign, to pay for his reelection efforts,?? Mr. Priebus wrote.
In his complaint, Mr. Priebus mentioned the president?s recently completed three-day swing through college campuses in a trio of swing states: Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado. The White House cast the trip as official travel aimed at persuading Congress to prevent a rise in interest rates for federally subsidized student loans. But the events also served an important political purpose for a re-election-minded White House: winning the youth vote.
?One incident of this might be an error that is easily remedied,?? Mr. Priebus wrote. ?But it is a pattern of behavior that is worsening. In fact, in three and a half years, President Obama has held dozens of events that benefited [the Obama campaign] on the taxpayer dime.??
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in response:
?This week?s travel has been part of the president?s official responsibility to get outside of Washington, D.C., hear from students and discuss stopping interest rates on their loans from doubling in July ? just like Friday?s trip to Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Georgia to meet with troops, veterans, and military families is likewise part of the president?s official responsibilities. When there is political travel, we follow all rules and regulations that all other administrations have followed.?
A spokesman for the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said the agency?s practice is to act on requests that come from members of Congress.
Told about the GAO?s protocol, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman suggested that it would not be difficult to get a member of Congress to request an investigation.
?If they?re making a special ask of us to go through a member of Congress, there are no shortage of members of Congress who take the potential misuse of taxpayer dollars seriously,?? said RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) called on Mr. Obama?s re-election campaign to ?pony up? and reimburse the taxpayer for the cost of the trip. He said the three-state swing doesn?t ?pass the straight-faced test.?
?His campaign out to be reimbursing the Treasury for the cost of his trips,? Mr. Boehner told reporters on Thursday.
The White House has wide latitude in deciding what constitutes official business as opposed to political travel that must be covered by campaign funds, experts in campaign finance law say.
?Clearly, if the only event on the trip is a fund-raising event, then the entirety of the trip should be paid for by the campaign,?? said Paul Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan campaign finance watchdog group. ?Mixed-purpose travel gets trickier and candidates are left with more discretion.??
When the president travels to a political event, he reimburses the government based on what it would cost to make the trip using a chartered Boeing 737. Still, taxpayers inevitably pick up part of the tab. The campaign, for example, is not required to repay the government for the Secret Service and military aides who travel with the president.
Since taking office, Mr. Obama has been no stranger to swing states that are likely to decide the 2012 election, giving rise to complaints that he is interweaving politics and official business.
A study by Brendan Doherty, assistant professor at the U.S . Naval Academy, showed that Mr. Obama surpassed his two most recent predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, in visits to battleground states over most of last year.
"A pen in the hand of this president is far more dangerous than a gun in the hands of 200 million law-abiding citizens."