Springfield Asks Obama to Pay Up for Campaign Event

In Springfield there remains one piece of unfinished business: an unpaid bill for $55,480

By Carol Marin and Don Moseley
|  Monday, Feb 6, 2012  |  Updated 5:55 AM CDT
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When then-candidate Barack Obama made a big announcement in Springfield, security didn't come free.  But local officials say the bill has yet to be paid.

Carol Marin, Don Moseley

When then-candidate Barack Obama made a big announcement in Springfield, security didn't come free. But local officials say the bill has yet to be paid.

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Three and a half years after a rally by then candidate Barack Obama in Springfield, city officials in the state capitol say they are left holding the bill for police overtime.
 
On August 23, 2008 the Obama campaign rolled through central Illinois to announce Joe Biden as its Vice Presidential running mate.

  It was a buoyant time for the campaign en route to Denver for the Democratic Convention.
 
Thousands turned out in the square by the old State Capitol to witness the announcement.
 
But before the event could begin, the city of Springfield had work to do, said Alderman Frank Edwards.
 
“There are a lot of things that they asked for,” Edwards said. “Extra police, move things. You’ve got to have this A to Z and we provided that.”
 
The event went off without a hitch.  Obama moved on to Denver, got his party’s nomination and ultimately a history-making general election victory.
 
But back in Springfield there remains one piece of unfinished business: an unpaid bill for $55,480.
 
“What they refused to pay was the $55,000 associated with police overtime for extra security,” said city Budget Director William McCarty.
 
On March 10, 2011 Alderman Edwards wrote the White House and the president “…to request your help.”
 
This latest round of appeals began, Edwards says, when he was going through a list of unpaid bills.
 
“It was $800,000 in collection, some parking tickets, building permits, things people owed us and I got to looking thru the list and here’s a bill that pops up, its $55,000,” Edwards said in an interview.  “And we go why isn’t this paid.”
 
Since 2009, McCarty says city officials have tried to determine who was responsible for the overdue debt.
 
“They contacted the DNC. They contacted the Obama campaign,” he said but no one wanted to pay. “That’s when the finger pointing began because the Obama campaign said we are a private organization, we are not responsible for the security.”
 
To try and cut through the clutter Edwards asked the President to intercede: “…sometimes only the executive himself can cut through such inter-departmental differences of opinion,” he wrote in last year’s letter.
 
There was no immediate response.
 
On November 15, 2011 the Deputy COO of Obama for America, replied the Obama team wasn’t responsible for security or other costs.

This week a campaign officials said: “Presidential campaigns are not responsible for security costs.”

If a question persists Teal Baker wrote: “…we assume it should be directed to the U.S. Secret Service.”
 
Springfield officials contacted a local representative of the Secret Service but McCarty says they didn’t get too far, telling them: “We don’t pay bills out of here, you’ll need to contact Washington. “
 
This week a Secret Service a spokesman, in response to a question said, “We don’t pay overtime to police.”  Adding there is no money or mechanism in the budget to do so.
 
Springfield officials say there is a serious side to the debate about the bill. Like many American cities Springfield is in a terrible budget crunch and last week there were 13 laying offs.
 
“Fact is $55,000 is enough to cover the salary and benefits of one of those employees for a year,” McCarty said.
 
There have been other big visits to Springfield, including President Bush in April 2005 to dedicate the Lincoln museum.
 
And the February 2007 presidential announcement by Barack Obama.
 
Neither left outstanding bills.
 
The Obama 2012 campaign declined to be interviewed but a official reiterated on background without attribution that the campaign does not pay for police overtime.
 
Springfield remains stuck with the bill.
 
City officials aren’t optimistic they will recover the $55,000, but they will keep trying.
 
“I mean it all comes back to common sense,” said Edwards. “If you are asking for something to be done and you know it cost money then you ought to be prepared to pay for it. It’s that simple.”

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