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December 1st, 2011
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Letters to the President #1046: 'Ahem, are you going to get the bill?'

Reporter's Note: Mother Jones reports that President Obama has spent an amazing number of days on fundraising trips this year. But his White House, like every administration, defends the practice of having taxpayers foot the bulk of the bill. That’s what I’m writing about in today’s letter.

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve been following some of this noise about you using Air Force One to scoot all over the country on campaign junkets and fundraising trips, and two thoughts come to mind.

First, I think everyone has to fully understand that you are President of the United States, and this is how you get around. You can’t rent a moped, you can’t get a coach seat on Amtrak, or ask a college pal for a lift to Indiana. A president is, as your staff has said, always on the clock and the security, connectivity, and mobility of the person holding that office must always be assured.

But second, I wonder if your critics have a point. Don’t get nervous. I’m not saying that you are doing something uniquely wrong, but maybe all presidents…Democratic and Republican…ought to be paying a heck of a lot more when and if they want to spend time campaigning and raising funds.

I don’t want to be unfair. I understand that being re-elected is important to anyone who wins any political office. But the whole nation is struggling right now to hold onto jobs, to pay bills, to pick up the check for all sorts of expenses. Why should taxpayers foot the bill for you, or any other incumbent, to go raise money for re-election? Wouldn’t it be simple enough to do some basic accounting and divide the expenses accordingly?

For example, if you fly to some battleground state to visit a factory and make a public speech about jobs, that’s just your responsibility; taxpayers should pay for it all, even if your opponents think the trip is suspect. But if you attend a fundraising dinner while you are there, and that takes up half of your time on the ground, why shouldn’t you or the Democratic Party reimburse taxpayers for half the cost of the whole trip? After all, those fundraisers are private events that the rest of us can’t even attend unless we pay the entry price. You are, during that time, acting as a private individual out to improve his own private standing and that of his organization.

I suppose the better solution would be for all presidents, Democratic or Republican, to simply not be involved in fundraising at all. After all, you’ve got a pretty important job. Arguably, you should have no time for anything except doing what we elected you to do. But since that is not the case, maybe substantially increasing the amount  sitting presidents and their parties pay for trips that smack of campaigning would be a good start. You keep saying the rich should pay more; in terms of campaign funds– admit it, you’re loaded!

Hey, you said you were coming to D.C. to change things. This is something you can change right now, and the symbolism won’t be lost on a nation where so many are having a hard time. It is, after all, kind of hard to see you or any other politician raising millions and millions of dollars at fancy dinners, then sliding the check across the table at the rest of us.

Hope all is well. Call when you can.

Regards,

Tom

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Filed under: Letters to the President • Opinion • President Barack Obama • T1 • Tom Foreman
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