President Trump's rallies have been troublesome to many who think his primary role should be governing and not campaigning — at least for a few solid years before the 2020 race starts. But now there's another reason to take issue with them: the price. Reports out from Arizona media put the cost of Trump's latest rally in Phoenix at $450,000. The biggest cost is overtime pay for city employees who worked the August event, The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday.
A big chunk of this money reportedly went to keep the president and his supporters safe. An estimated $336,887 went to police who were there to control crowds, including those who showed up to protest the president. None of this was met with bad will by the Phoenix government, which is run by a Democrat.
"We do what it takes to protect the President of the United States when he visits Phoenix," the mayor, Greg Stanton, told the newspaper. According to its report, the other expenses were $60,483 for the fire department, street transportation for $49,767, and water services and other public works both with totals under $5,000.
The city may not have minded — at least officially — but the state's Democratic Party sure did. Party spokesperson Enrique Gutierrez told The Republic that the Trump campaign — which is already fundraising and has raised millions this year — should pay the city back for the extra expenses. "It's 2017. He just won in 2016. This shouldn't be something that the city of Phoenix should pay for," Gutierrez told the paper.
The city spokesperson Julie Watters confirmed via email to The Republic that there won't be a request from their end. It's the city's job, she explained, denying that the city has asked for money to cover the rally expenses. "There has been no request for reimbursement and no offer," she confirmed in an email to the paper. "While a visit from the president and vice president is very unique in regards to the services that the city provided, our obligation was to keep all members of the community safe."
Republicans, meanwhile, are just fine with Trump visiting — no matter how much the expense. "The safety and security of everyone involved should be priority 1. There are costs associated with that — whether it be an event for the President of the United States, former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Phoenix rally last October or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Tempe rally last November," Arizona Republican Party spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair told The Republic.
The city manager, Ed Zuercher, explained that the campaign was paying for everything inside the arena, about $50,000. Everything outside is the public's responsibility, he argued. "You can't dampen free speech by telling people they have to pay for free speech," Zuercher told the paper.
On Twitter, there were strong reactions from both sides. Trump supporters seemed to largely making Sinclair's argument, that past rallies were covered by the city. Those in opposition made all sorts of arguments, including that there are more important things to spend that money on (healthcare) or that this explains why Trump has gone broke so many times. "Phoenix taxpayers your money went for a Trumprally. Imagine what that money could have done for your community," one user wrote.
The Trump campaign doesn't seem to have trouble spending money on other things. POLITICO reported that they spent more than $4 million in the last quarter, quite the sum in a non-campaign year. Bloomberg reported that the campaign has had to lawyer up in response to the Russia inquiries.
It's a delicate situation legally because one could argue Trump is using the money to pay for his personal legal bills. So if Phoenix can cover a bit, perhaps it is really in the president's best interest.