City of Newport Beach staff has been receiving weekly phone calls from a number of news reporters that are tracking invoices the City sent to President Obama’s campaign office and Governor Romney’s campaign office. We have been providing the information requested. While we understand how and why the story has developed, it was never the City’s intention to turn the invoices into a matter of political debate or media attention. We feel it's important for our community to know that and for us to provide information about the invoices from the City's perspective.
President Obama visited Newport Beach in February to attend a campaign fundraiser for a few hours at a private residence. Only those that paid to attend could do so. A similar situation occurred in May, when Governor Mitt Romney, also campaigning for President, stopped in Newport Beach for a few hours for a private, political fundraising event. The Newport Beach Police Department provided services for both visits. Therefore, the City of Newport Beach sent invoices to both campaign offices to recoup the money spent on providing police services.
Many cities across the nation, just like Newport Beach, send bills to political campaigns if an event is purely fundraising in nature and is not open to the public except for payment. We view this type of event as a private event and we bill private events (even fundraisers for nonprofits, like the Race for the Cure or the OC Marathon) for the cost of City services incurred. Thus, we billed the campaigns.
Even the Federal government has an arrangement with sitting presidents whereby the campaign-related portion of the President’s travel is paid by the campaign or a similar organization like the Democratic or Republican National Committees.
We thought it was exciting to have President Obama in Newport Beach as it’s not often that a sitting President comes to town. We understand the need to protect the President and our police officers worked with the Secret Service to do so and to handle the traffic and other issues that arose.
If President Obama or Governor Romney had been in Newport Beach to make a public policy speech or attend even a somewhat partisan rally (but free and open to the public) - the events would have been viewed differently. We would not have sent invoices.
During a planning meeting with the Secret Service regarding the President’s visit, our police department personnel raised the issue of obtaining reimbursement for the City’s costs. Our staff was told by a Secret Service representative that the agency would not reimburse Newport Beach and that we should check with the President’s campaign or the Democratic National Committee. The City sent an invoice to the campaign office.
Equally, the City provided police services when Governor Romney was here for a June fundraiser and the Romney Victory, Inc. campaign was invoiced for the cost of those services.
Romney Victory, Inc. paid its invoice (the check was dated July 17, 2012) and the City processed the check on July 23. We have not yet received payment for the invoice sent to Obama for America.
The Democratic National Committee has informed the City that the invoice is not the DNC’s responsibility. The City has not spoken to the Secret Service again about the invoice nor has any member of our staff spoken to a representative of Obama for America. Therefore, we continue to believe that the invoice was correctly sent to the campaign office.
The City sends out thousands of bills every month and our financial system will continue to handle this invoice as it does the others. An invoice is sent, then two “past due” notices are sent (30 days apart) and unpaid invoices eventually go to collections. That’s a last resort and we really don’t like to see that happen. Thus, one of our Finance Department staff members was recently asked to send a reminder e-mail to the campaign office.
That’s where things stand. If the bill is paid, we will update the City's website.