Monday, June 23, 2008

Vice President Cheney is here

If you want to waste a week some time, call the White House and try finding that what presidential travel costs. You get answers like this:
In accordance with Federal regulations, political committees, and not the Federal taxpayer, pay the costs attributable to political activity when the Vice President participates in an event held by a candidate for the US Senate or House of Representatives. Title of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and section 734.503 of title 5 of the CFR, contain relevant regulations. For further information, please consult the website or press affairs office of the Federal Elections Commission.

- Megan Mitchell, Office of the Vice President.

OK. But, can I just get a total cost the Vice President's Office will bill the Goddard campaign for this particular event?
"We don't distribute breakdowns," Mitchell said. "I encourage you to contact the campaign."

Thanks. It's not like you're a public office, or this should be public information or anything. Sayeth the campaign:
Regarding expense we will fully reimburse taxpayers for the cost of the political portion of the trip. As you can imagine we are still adding things up and we will report all expense on our next FEC report which is due early next month.

By the way - I believe I've actually read some of the regulations Ms. Mitchell referred to. It's been a while but, basically, they require a campaign to pay the cost of one first-class airline ticket for each campaign traveler on the trip, even though they are not actually flying on a commercial airline.

And a billing formula that the White House referred me to a couple of years ago states that security costs — which of course are secret — are backed out, and then the "political entity pays for all the costs related to the trip specifically."

As for the actual cost of actual trips... Well, put it this way: The Washington Post tackled the subject in 2002. The title of the ensuing article was "The cost of presidential travel is anyone's guess."

If The Washington freaking Post can't figure it out, what chance do you think the average American has? And are you OK with that?

By the way, I think it should be noted that, according to everything I've read, taxpayer financed campaign travel like this existed long before President Bush took office. It's not a Republican or Democrat thing, it's a politicians spending your money thing.

Finally, if you'd like to read an August 2000 Government Accountability Office report on presidential travel costs, you can download it here. It deals with foreign travel, but it's the most recent report I know of on this issue. And you can glean information relevant to domestic travel from it. For example: It costs $54,100 an hour to operate Air Force 1.
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UPDATE: A 2006 House Committee on Government Reform memo (which can be downloaded here) reminded me that this same GAO report lists the per-hour cost of operating Air Force 2 only $14,552. Air Force 1 is a VC-25 (basically a souped up 747) and Air Force 2 is typically a C-32 (a modified 757). I'll try to confirm just what kind of plane it was with the White House or the Air Force, but presumably the lower per-hour cost is more appropriate to quote.
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Image: Beau Cabell, The Macon Telegraph.

Cop: All this hoopla and taxpayer money.
Me: You shoulda seen that thing idle.

From 'former' Telegraph reporter Keich Whicker. Damn his reasonableness:
You have better things to do with your time than fixate (again) over how much it costs elected officials who travel to politic. The Veep can go wherever he wants and the taxpayer foots the bill. It's part of the office, just like the writ of post, where all the mailing fees are waived for Marshall when he sends out election junk.

In other words, it is what it is.

2 comments:

Keich said...

Travis, you have better things to do with your time than fixate (again) over how much it costs elected officials who travel to politic. The Veep can go wherever he wants and the taxpayer foots the bill. It's part of the office, just like the writ of post, where all the mailing fees are waived for Marshall when he sends out election junk.

In other words, it is what it is.

Nick said...

I don't want my money to go to shoot your buddy Cheney's traveling. With all his Halliburton stock, can't he afford to pay for his own trips?