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Cities to Trump, Clinton and Sanders: pay your police bills

In Wisconsin, Green Bay officials say the Clinton campaign has yet to pay off bills from events in March, September and November totaling nearly $12,800. Eau Claire, Wisconsin, says Clinton won’t pay a $6,812 from a visit in April. Spokane wants $2,793.

Clinton’s campaign committee has enough money to pay its bills, having last month reported carrying a more than $838,000 surplus on its books. It did not report police bills from Philadelphia, Green Bay or any other locality as campaign debt.

Clinton campaign officials would not talk about the campaign’s non-payment of police bills despite several calls and emails requesting comment.

In March, as the Democratic presidential primary raged, the pro-Sanders Veterans for Bernie organization chided the Clinton campaign for local news reports indicating Clinton was slow to pay her bills for police protection. It likewise boasted that the Sanders campaign showed “an understanding and respect for the challenges faced by municipalities and local police departments” by reimbursing local governments for police protection. 

Many police departments would disagree: The Sanders campaign in December reported to the Federal Election Commission that it owed 23 local governments and law enforcement agencies a combined $449,409 for “event security.” In its filing, the Sanders campaign doesn’t dispute the debts.

The cities of Santa Monica, California ($117,047), Irvine, California ($67,000); Tucson ($44,013), Spokane ($33,318) and Vallejo, California ($28,702) are listed as Sanders campaign’s top creditors.

Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs declined to comment, referring questions to the Secret Service.

But Sanders campaign lawyer Brad Deutsch, in responding to a demand letter from Tucson, argued that the Sanders campaign shouldn’t have to pay bills for services that the Secret Service — not the campaign itself — requested. Tucson assigned 76 police officers to staff Sanders’ March 18 campaign rally at Tucson Arena.

“The Campaign did not contract for, not did it request or arrange for the Tucson Police Department to provide public safety at the Campaign event,” wrote Deutsch, who declined to speak on the record for this story. “The level of security or public safety requirements anticipated for any particular event were not dictated by the campaign.”

In Pennsylvania, Chief Mark Toomey of the Upper Providence Township Police Department attempted to convince Sanders’ campaign to pay a $25,620 invoice related to a Democratic primary campaign event in April.

No luck.

“They said [the bill] was exorbitant and too high, and that they didn’t ask for the manpower,” Toomey said. “What if I said, ‘Look, you’re on your own, have fun,’ and a fight breaks out, or something terrible happens? I’m the one who gets skewered — the negatives are endless.”

Ultimately, the Sanders campaign gave the Upper Providence Township Police Department $2,250, and the two sides settled, Toomey said. Toomey added that he considered taking the Sanders campaign to court for non-payment but decided against it.

“Who wants to get bogged down in that?” he asked. “My goal is to make sure the candidate gets in and out — regardless of money or who they are — safely.”

Sheriff John R. Gossage of Brown County, Wisconsin, wasn’t pleased when Casey Sinnwell, Sanders’ national director of scheduling and advance, told him to contact the Secret Service to collect on a $2,883 event security bill.

“I am concerned that the campaign was overly selective as to what service/organization they would reimburse for protective services rendered,” Gossage wrote back, noting that the Sanders campaign did pay one of its bills — all $11,472 of it — that Green Bay’s city government sent it.

What happened then?

“I received no reply,” Gossage said.

Two-thousand miles away, Deputy Sheriff Christine Castillo of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office in California says the Sanders campaign never once responded to the more than $22,100 worth of invoices it sent after staffing campaign events before the state’s Democratic primary on June 4.

“We of course would like them to pay the invoices that we sent previously,” she said.

Sanders could conceivably pay all his police bills immediately: His campaign in December reported having more than $4.71 million cash on hand.

Who should pay for candidate safety?

When a barnstorming presidential candidate sweeps into a city for a campaign rally, often on just a few days notice, if that, it’s often unclear who’s financially responsible for securing the event.

Here’s how events typically unfold: Before a campaign event, the U.S. Secret Service, which is primarily responsible for ensuring the safety of presidential candidates, asks local police departments or other public safety agencies to assist them.

Local governments almost never refuse. They’ll then deploy officers to serve a variety of functions: crowd control, perimeter patrols, closing streets, escorting dignitaries.

After the candidate comes and goes, the host city sometimes bills the presidential campaign for police officer overtime and other related costs.

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