Congressmen Ami Bera, David Cicilline, Rodney Davis and Adam Kinzinger talk problem solving.
By Mickey Edwards and Nancy Jacobson
Imagine having to spend $500,000 on a flight from Washington, DC to Miami, FL. Probably wouldn’t, right? Well that’s how much it costs for the president to do the trip on Air Force One, except he gets a steep discount on the flight, leaving taxpayers to pick up the rest of the tab.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Even though presidents are required by Federal Election Commission rules to reimburse the government for any portion of a trip that is political, the truth is these rules are murky and difficult to follow. But there’s a fix that all of us as taxpayers can appreciate during campaign season: require any trip with any fundraising activity to be paid for in full by the president’s party or campaign.
Too often campaigns blur the line between political and official business to avoid paying the full cost of their travel. A clearer line must be drawn between a president’s official and political duties to keep campaigns honest and ensure that presidential privilege isn’t abused.
Most Americans probably aren’t shocked to learn that our tax dollars pay for many of the president’s travel expenses. The price tag, however, is shocking. Air Force One alone costs $180,000 per hour to operate and is used for official business as well as campaign fundraising trips. The modern campaign requires more travel and expenses than ever before, saddling taxpayers with a higher bill each election cycle.
Although the Obama Administration is the first to run for re-election under tighter Federal Election Commission rules requiring the party or campaign to foot the bill for fundraising trips, deciding what counts as official business and what doesn’t is still largely left to the honor system. Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, was recently quoted in The New York Times as calling the system “very opaque.”
The No Labels solution? Take the mystery out of the process. Keep the president honest by requiring any trip that includes fundraising be paid for in full by the president’s party or campaign. Doing so will ensure there is a clear line between the president’s roles as a political figure and a public servant.
Mickey Edwards represented the 5th district in Oklahoma in the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993. He served as the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, the party's fourth-ranking leadership position.
Nancy Jacobson is a No Labels co-founder. She served as Finance Chair of the Democratic National Committee and National Finance Chair for the Democratic Leadership Council.