President Obama has already eclipsed George W. Bush’s taxpayer-subsidized reelection travel costs, and there are still nearly 200 days of campaigning to go.
According to the Associated Press, the Obama campaign has paid the government more than $1.5 million for travel costs associated with campaigning—$200,000 more than the Bush campaign had to reimburse for the entire 2004 campaign.
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The AP analysis also rebuked the Obama campaign’s claim that it reimburses the government for the hefty costs associated with using Air Force One for his re-election efforts.
Flying Air Force One costs taxpayers about $180,000 an hour—an expense that would quickly drain any candidate’s war chest. The reimbursement process only seeks to recover a fraction of those costs:
No matter what the reason for the president’s trip, there are all sorts of other necessary big expenses anytime he moves around the country: advance teams, cargo planes, armored cars, Secret Service protection, communications and medical staff and more.
Presidents always are quick to stress that they reimburse the government for the costs of their political travel.
That’s true, but they do so under rules that still leave taxpayers paying most of the tab.
For political trips benefiting his own campaign, Obama’s team repays the government for air travel under a formula that’s based on what it would cost to charter a Boeing 737 for a comparable trip, according to the White House. Obama’s campaign doesn’t have to pay the full cost for a chartered plane, though. It pays a reduced amount based on the number of people aboard Air Force One who were traveling for political reasons. That number excludes Secret Service agents and other support staff who always travel with the president.