Outside the Rally

John Borkenhagen, of Rochester, left, stands with a group of protesters separated from Trump supporters by a line of Minnesota State Patrol Troopers in the street outside the Civic Center on Oct. 4.

President Trump’s campaign visit in October cost Rochester taxpayers more than $90,000 — money that is not likely to be reimbursed.

But the city did not come away empty-handed from the event. The campaign did pay $100,000 for use of Mayo Civic Center.

The remaining sum — $76,000 in direct costs related to the visit, plus $17,625 associated with the time spent by exempt salaried employees who prepared for and staffed the event — adds up to $93,625.

Trump’s visit also cost Olmsted County $8,671, primarily in overtime costs, said the county’s director of human resources Dale Ignatius, bringing the city’s and county’s combined unreimbursed costs to $102,296.

Rochester officials said they would seek reimbursement from the Trump campaign for a portion of the city’s costs, but held out little hope that any of those dollars would be returned to local governments. None could cite an instance of a community that recouped such dollars, from Trump or any past presidential campaign visit.

“We’d like to make a request, but we probably won’t be reimbursed for any of those costs,” said Rochester City Administrator Steve Rymer.

The cost figures were prepared in a staff analysis that was posted on Rochester City Council member Michael Wojcik’s blog on Monday. Altogether, city employees worked more than 1,400 hours on the event. The value of the salaried employees’ time was calculated at an average hourly wage of $37.50.

“In total, it appears that the campaign stop in Rochester cost local taxpayers $93,625, for which we are left holding the bill,” Wojcik wrote in his blog under the headline, “Trump Campaign stiffs Rochester Taxpayers.”

Officials noted that the campaign’s $100,000 payment for use of Mayo Civic Center helped, but didn’t come close to offsetting the full cost.

In an email, Wojcik told the PB that he did not think it was appropriate for the taxpayers to fund the event.

“I am not sure of past practices, but because I saw very quickly how expensive this was going to be, I asked to track the expenses that were not reimbursed,” Wojcik said. “Ultimately, I fulfilled my role of informing the public.”

Trump campaigned before a mostly packed arena at the civic center on Oct. 4, a month ahead of the November election, hoping to provide a boost to a slate of GOP candidates running for governor and federal and state offices. In the end, not a single GOP candidate won a state constitutional office, but GOP Jim Hagedorn squeaked through for Congress in the 1st District.

When Trump campaigned in Duluth last summer, officials there estimated the combined cost to the city and county at $90,000, slightly lower than the figure cited by Rochester and Olmsted County officials.

Federal Election Commission rules do not require campaign committees to pay for local expenses related to a campaign event to the president, other federal official or candidate.

Bill Kuisle, assistant chairman of the Olmsted County GOP, called it a “good thing” that presidential candidates and presidents come to town. The flow of money, moreover, wasn’t just one-way. The campaign also attracted visitors to Rochester, some from Iowa and Wisconsin, who spent a “lot of money while they were here,” Kuisle said.

Kuisle also argues that the money spent on security was not only for the president’s benefit. The security measures put in place also benefited those who attended the rally.

“You’re not just protecting the president, you’re protecting the people around him,” Kuisle said.

The official cost estimate also failed to recognize other entities that contributed to the safety of the event, such as the Minnesota Department of Transportation, State Patrol, and surrounding communities.

Dale Ignatius, Olmsted County director of human resources, noted some costs not included in the final tally were related to county employees who were paid not to work.

On the day of the event, county employees at the city-county Government Center were sent home, so that the building could be turned into an emergency center in event of an attack on the president.

“So you had 400 people or so that had to leave and the county paid their wages but no work was done,” Ignatius said. “The county paid (each employee) three hours of not being productive.”

What's your reaction?

35
10
5
4
84