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RNC Chair asks GAO to put the brakes on Obama junkets

 

The Hill reports that Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus has written the Government Accountability Office to request an investigation into President Obama’s endless taxpayer-funded campaign junkets:

In an official complaint filed with the GAO, a watchdog agency, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus accuses Obama of “passing off campaign travel as official events,” using taxpayer money to fund his reelection efforts.

“Given the recent excesses, waste and abuse uncovered in the General Services Administration, the GAO should be particularly sensitive to misuse of taxpayer dollars,” Preibus wrote in a letter to Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro. 

(Emphasis mine.)  Nice touch mentioning the GSA scandal, and not just in a partisan point-scoring way.  Our bankrupt government is wasting a huge amount of money, at seemingly every level, to live like high rollers.  It costs us at least a million bucks every time Obama’s gigantic motorcade rolls out of the White House, not to mention eating up a lot of gasoline and aviation fuel.  They’re not driving Priebuses, you know.  Er, excuse me, Priuses.

The RNC chair might have also mentioned the enormous cost of Secret Service protection for the mobile President, especially since the advance teams seem to end up with a distressing amount of time on their hands.  On the bright side, they pay for their own entertainment out of pocket, and recent events would suggest they aggressively negotiate for the best possible price.

The abuse of presidential travel for political purposes, by an executive who piled $5 trillion in new debt on a government that wasn’t exactly in great fiscal shape when he took office, has been going on for a long time.  My favorite example was when Obama flew out to campaign for one of his silly big-spending “infrastructure” pork bills at a bridge that would not have been affected by it, because the bridge in question looked good in photo ops, and spanned two states that just happened to be represented by key senators.

Priebus cited Obama’s blitz of college campuses, a blatantly obvious campaign swing that had nothing to do with the Presidential discharge of duties:

Priebus said “the most recent example” of abuse took place this week as Obama traveled to North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa, three battleground states to promote student loan legislation. The RNC chairman points out that Obama delivered speeches to “cheering crowds of college students” which resembled campaign events. 

“One might imagine that if this were genuinely a government event, he might have stopped in a non-battleground state like Texas or Vermont,” Priebus said. 

This stuff has been going on forever, and it’s increasingly difficult to justify in an age of electronic media saturation, especially given the ridiculously large imperial retinue Obama drags around with him – something that has already made America a joke on the international scene, as even billionaire oil sheiks snigger at the size of the U.S. entourage.  Whether or not the GAO finds legal grounds for a complaint of abuse, there’s no question Obama could cut back on travel, or at least reduce the expenses he incurs.

But instead, we get more expensive campaign-rally harangues against the President’s class enemies… surrounded by $38,000-per-plate fundraisers.  Preibus highlighted a recent presidential safari to the cash-infested wetlands of Florida:

President Obama scheduled three fundraisers in the state and added one short “official event” on his Buffett Tax to his itinerary, once again allowing his reelection campaign to save on fuel for Air Force One. This speech was high on class warfare, slogans, and divisive campaign-style rhetoric. It was low on substance that would benefit the populace at large.

One incident of this might be an error that is easily remedied. But it is a pattern of behavior that is worsening. In fact in three and a half years, President Obama has held dozens of events that benefitted OFA on the taxpayer dime.

Obama’s defenders will counter that he’s the President wherever he goes, requires expensive security during all excursions, and must be allowed to campaign for his re-election.  Priebus’ letter echoes the eternal complaint of all challengers against incumbents.  The power of every office can be abused for political purposes, and yet incumbents can’t be expected to sit silently at their desks while challengers maul them on the campaign trail.

It’s also one of the reasons the eternal quest for “campaign finance reform” turns into incumbent re-election insurance.  Challengers have only formal, heavily regulated campaign activities to rely upon, while incumbents have the powers of office at their disposal.  I’ve never seen a “campaign finance reform” proposal that had much to say about the President using Air Force One to barnstorm college campuses and whip up student crowds with chants of “Four more years!”

The question is one of degree.  President Obama, who has held about twice as many re-election fundraisers as his predecessor, seems to have embraced the wisdom of Al Gore: there is “no controlling legal authority” to prevent him from pushing the boundaries of reason and common sense with his taxpayer-subsidized political efforts. 

The only real limit is the degree of public outrage the media sees fit to whip up, and Obama certainly doesn’t have to worry about that… any more than he needs to worry about them criticizing his incessant golfing, as they did with George Bush.  Priebus was clever to write the sort of letter that would force the “watchdog media” to wake up from its little four-year nap and provide a smidgeon of obligatory coverage.  At the very least, Obama might vacuum a bit less of our money into his re-election bid while the GAO investigates.

Update: In an interview with Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, Priebus said the RNC is serious enough about this complaint to consider escalating it to the Federal Election Commission:


Interview with Reince Priebus by

 

Update: House Speaker John Boehner raised this issue on Thursday, and called Obama’s student-loan electioneering “pathetic,” as reported by The Hill: “This week the president traveled across the country on taxpayers’ dime at a cost of $179,000 an hour insisting the Congress fix a problem that we were already working on. Frankly, I think this is beneath the dignity of the White House.”

Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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