A Missoula County commissioner is looking into whether the county can charge U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale’s campaign for costs related to President Donald Trump’s visit to Missoula on Thursday.
On Monday, after rumors of Trump’s campaign stopover were confirmed, Commissioner Dave Strohmaier posted to Facebook that he would explore the possibility of billing the Rosendale campaign for county expenses related to Trump’s rally at Missoula International Airport.
So far, those expenses would probably include security and perhaps emergency management.
“I might reconsider if POTUS actually conducted some real business on behalf of Missoula County while in town beyond staging a photo op for an aspiring Senate candidate,” Strohmaier wrote in a Facebook post.
On Tuesday, Strohmaier said the commission won’t know the total cost until after Thursday, and he’s asked the sheriff’s office to track its expenses. Fortunately, Trump will remain at the airport, so city and county governments don’t have to worry about security for motorcades and venues in town.
“We haven’t been able to have a discussion (since Monday). But I’m optimistic that the commission will concur that it’s completely inappropriate for Missoula County taxpayers to be shouldering the burden of a strictly partisan campaign event,” Strohmaier said.
Trump is stopping in Missoula to stump for Rosendale. He’s making similar stops this week for other Republican candidates, including Rep. Martha McSally in Mesa, Ariz., Sen. Dean Heller and others in Elko, Nev., and Sen. Ted Cruz in Houston, Texas.
But on the Trump website, the event is billed as one of the president’s “Make America Great Again” rallies with no mention of other candidates. Trump is known for dominating his rallies and giving only a few minutes to congressional candidates.
Strohmaier said having Trump involved makes a normal congressional campaign event much more expensive. If Rosendale were holding his own rally, it would cost the county far less, if anything.
Other candidates, including 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have required very little support or expense when they made campaign stops in Missoula.
“In this case, it was the White House kind of reaching out and asking for help with a campaign event that we might not otherwise choose to be involved with,” Strohmaier said. “I would think differently about all of this if he was here to conduct official business, like signing a presidential disaster declaration for western Montana for spring flooding, which has yet to be done.”
The Great Falls Tribune reported that Trump’s three-hour visit to Great Falls on July 5 cost local agencies almost $79,000.
When asked if any other local governments have tried to bill campaigns for Trump security, Strohmaier pointed to the District of Columbia.
In August, Mayor Muriel Bowser was going to charge Trump $21.6 million for all the preparation and work it would take to host a military parade the president wanted in D.C.
Trump cancelled the parade.
A Center for Public Integrity investigation of federal campaign and municipal records found that, as of 2017, around three-dozen municipalities had not been paid for expenses related to 2016 campaign rallies.
Even though he’s not up for election until 2020, Trump has never stopped campaigning. In 2017, Trump held a rally in Phoenix that saddled the city with $450,000 in traffic, security and utility costs. Yet in 2016, Trump tweeted that he was outraged about the cost to taxpayers when President Obama traveled to a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C.
Little by little, more local governments, including Green Bay, Wisc., and Tuscan, Ariz., are demanding reimbursement.
Calls for comment to the Rosendale campaign weren’t returned.