As of now, Donald Trump is scheduled to appear at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Thursday, part of his plan to flip Minnesota to the GOP in 2020. The city wants to make sure he pays for the privilege — through the nose, apparently. The city sent a $530,000 security bill to the venue for Trump’s rally, which then passed it along to Team Trump, which then promptly threatened to sue the city over its “outrageous abuse of power”:
Tensions between Minneapolis city leaders and President Donald Trump’s campaign escalated Monday when the campaign threatened to sue the city for trying to force it to pay $530,000 for security during this week’s rally.
Trump’s campaign team said in a news release late Monday night that Mayor Jacob Frey is “abusing the power of his office” by “conjuring a phony and outlandish bill for security” to cover those costs for Thursday’s campaign rally.
City officials told the Target Center, which is managed by AEG, that it would be responsible for paying the costs. The center then allegedly tried to pass the bill on to Trump’s team and told them they would not be able to use the arena unless they agreed to the charges.
“This is an outrageous abuse of power by a liberal mayor trying to deny the rights of his own city’s residents just because he hates the President,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “People want to hear from their President, and no mayor looking to beef up his résumé for a run for higher office should stand in the way.”
Frey might have been looking to get around an issue that has hung in the background of Trump’s campaign for months. Other cities have tried billing the Trump campaign directly for increased police costs, only to have the billings ignored. The Center for Public Integrity reported on the backlog of police-security bills last June in conjunction with NBC and CNBC, when it totaled up to almost $900,000 in this cycle already:
At least nine other city governments — from Mesa, Arizona, to Erie, Pennsylvania — are still waiting for Trump to pay public safety-related invoices they’ve sent his presidential campaign committee in connection with his political rallies, according to interviews with local officials and municipal records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.
Some invoices are three years old. In all, city governments say Trump’s campaign owes them at least $841,219.
However, the campaign never agreed to pay police costs in the first place. The Secret Service did request extra police presence, as they would wherever the president travels and for whatever purpose, but that’s been considered part of the normal operation in protecting presidents as well as the local communities impacted. CPI also noted that many municipalities agree with that concept, expressly prohibiting imposing security costs on politicians for holding events.
By billing the Target Center instead of the Trump campaign, it certainly looks as though Frey was trying to get around that issue. This actually demonstrates why such policies might be wise; Frey’s actions could easily be taken to arbitrarily deny politicians a forum to engage with voters. Do they charge these costs to every venue that hosts events for political campaigns? Do the venues always pass along those costs if/when they get billed? Or is this treatment only reserved for Republican presidential candidates who visit MN-05?
Those turn out to be excellent questions, at least when it comes to Minneapolis. The city doesn’t even bill the Twins and the Vikings for such costs — at least not yet:
In an interview Monday, Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said “it’s not fair” for residents to shoulder such costs, whether they are for political or sporting events. She said the city has been having conversations with organizations including the Twins, the Vikings and the Minnesota Ballpark Authority about sharing the costs of additional event expenses during games. She said these discussions have been going on since before the Super Bowl in 2018.
Bear in mind that the city has been eating those costs for decades, even while building both teams brand new stadiums over the past few years. Nor, in fact, have they ever billed a political campaign before now:
Robin McPherson, Minneapolis Police Department’s finance director, said in a Sept. 26 e-mail to city officials that the agency has not sought reimbursement for campaign rallies because it was “to ensure public safety not security for the candidate and any costs have been nominal.” But she said Trump’s rally “will be significantly more expensive and extensive.”
In other words, this was an arbitrary choice to impose such security costs. It’s also an absurd amount to charge, as WCCO reported noted this morning and picked up Team Trump. For comparison, a similar Trump campaign visit to Duluth in 2018 cost that city only $69,000 — about 87% less than Minneapolis’ bill:
Minneapolis Mayor @Jacob_Frey is trying to shut down President Trump’s rally by unfairly charging the campaign over $500,000 for security.
"[It] would be way out of line with what other Minnesota cities have chalked up as the cost of security for other Presidential rallies…" pic.twitter.com/tPEOVkYkri
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) October 8, 2019
They literally don’t do it for anyone else but Trump. If it comes to a lawsuit, Minneapolis had better expect to lose, which means they’ll eat not just this clearly inflated bill, but also the inflated legal costs that won’t be so easy to write off.
Allowing city governments to charge arbitrary fees to politicians for campaign rallies seems like a very bad idea. That’s exactly what this is — an arbitrary and ludicrous fee charged to a politician which this city government doesn’t like.
The police union president is unhappy with Frey, and went on Fox & Friends this morning to discuss it. This may not turn out well for Frey, especially since the city has ordered police in the past to participate in presidential photo ops.
Update, 5/15/2020: Welcome to all the fresh readers of this post based on a question asked by Jake Tapper this morning:
Perhaps because some of these charges might have been BS? That seems to be the case in Minneapolis, for instance.https://t.co/Pof42jFSk5
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) May 15, 2020
Jake graciously retweeted my response and then comment-tweeted it to make sure everyone saw it. Much appreciated.