Obama returns to school district stiffed by his campaign for four years on $25,000 tab

Kyle Gillis

LAS VEGAS — President Barack Obama is set to hold a campaign rally at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas on Wednesday, his first visit to Southern Nevada since Nevada Journal revealed that his campaign left taxpayers here on the hook for the costs of events at local public schools.

Obama’s campaign, Obama for America (OFA), left the Clark County School District with nearly $25,000 in unpaid bills from two rallies at Bonanza and Coronado high schools in 2008.

Neither CCSD nor the Obama campaign would confirm for Nevada Journal the campaign’s plans to pay for Wednesday’s event.

In 2008, CCSD billed the Obama campaign $53,116.12 for the Bonanza and Coronado rallies. Obama for America originally paid $28,484.40 of the bill, but left $24,631.72 unpaid.

That remainder was not paid until June 2012, following multiple Nevada Journal inquiries. The bill was for 500 hours of school police officer overtime, providing extra security for the rallies.

As Nevada Journal reported in July, Aoife McCarthy, press secretary for OFA’s Nevada organization, said she didn’t know why the campaign waited four years to pay the 2008 bill.

Contacted anew, McCarthy couldn’t confirm by press time if OFA had received an invoice from CCSD for the Canyon Springs rally Wednesday.

Obama’s campaign isn’t the only one hosting rallies at CCSD schools. Last week, presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan held a rally at Palo Verde High School, and on July 27, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., campaigned on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at C.C Ronnow Elementary School.

Mason Harrison, a spokesman for the Romney campaign’s Nevada organization, told Nevada Journal the Romney campaign paid for both the Rubio and Ryan events, and said the campaign usually pays for all events ahead of time.

The Obama campaign has been in the news several times for reportedly not reimbursing cities or other public entities for the costs of its events. In February, Obama held a fundraising breakfast in Newport Beach, Calif., and the city sent the Obama campaign a $35,043 invoice to cover extra security costs incurred by the city.

The bill was due June 9, and when Newport Beach received no payment, it sent the campaign a past-due notice.

The Obama campaign directed the city to the Democratic National Committee, which then passed Newport Beach on to the Secret Service, according to Mary Locey, the city’s public information officer.

The Secret Service informed Newport Beach it’s not responsible for payments, so as of Aug. 21, six months after the fundraising breakfast, Newport Beach taxpayers are picking up the tab.

“I’ve been kept in the loop [by the city] every step of the way, but as of now, we still haven’t received anything,” said Locey, “but we’re going to keep trying.”

In June, the town of Durham, N.H., attempted to bill Obama’s campaign up to $20,000 for extra security costs. The Obama campaign declined Durham’s request, referring it to the Secret Service, just as with Newport Beach.

The Secret Service’s public affairs office didn’t return Nevada Journal’s calls inquiring as to whether the Secret Service is responsible for security costs incurred by campaign visits.

Ultimately, an anonymous donor covered the Durham security costs.

Town Administrator Todd Selig told CNN that if Obama had been on an official White House visit, costs would have been a “non-issue,” but since it was a campaign visit, “the town council felt it appropriate to request reimbursement for helping to provide security.”

Both Newport Beach and Durham faced obstacles contacting to the Obama campaign, as did Nevada Journal.

Earlier this year, CCSD did provide Nevada Journal with payment summaries and sales orders sent to the Obama campaign following the 2008 events. An email from 2010 cited multiple district efforts to collect on the debts.

“We have made numerous attempts to collect the outstanding balances to no avail,” wrote CCSD’s director of intergovernmental relations, Nicole Rourke, to Obama campaign contact Ann Marie Habershaw, in the email.

“I would appreciate your help in resolving this matter,” pleaded Rourke.

However, her plea produced no payments.

The payments were not received until nearly four years after the event, following Nevada Journal’s enquiries.

Kyle Gillis is a reporter for Nevada Journal, a publication of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more in-depth reporting, visit http://nevadajournal.com/ and http://npri.org/.

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