MILLER: The million-dollar stump speech

GOP demands Obama campaign repay taxpayers for travel costs

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The “big news” is that President Obama is not yet campaigning for re-election. Mr. Obama has been gallivanting around the country to read highly partisan speeches and host multimillion-dollar fundraisers, but his campaign manager announced Wednesday that the bid for a second term will “begin” on May 5.

This interesting fiction helps Mr. Obama avoid tapping his $1 billion war chest to pay for his recent stump speeches. Instead, he’s been letting taxpayers pick up the tab. Republicans cry foul.

Recent presidential orations leave little doubt that the campaign is in full swing. Audiences invited to his events chant things like, “We love you, Barack.” It’s so coordinated that in Iowa and Colorado, college students booed during speeches at the same cue line: “Last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending.” The president responded by saying “Not good” both times. The words on Mr. Obama’s teleprompter have little to do with governance and everything to do with themes of class warfare.

House Speaker John A. Boehner on Thursday blasted Mr. Obama’s recent excursion to shore up the youth vote through student-loan subsidies. “For the president to make a campaign issue out of this and then to travel to three battleground states and go to three large college campuses on taxpayers’ money to try to make this a political issue is pathetic,” the Ohio Republican told reporters. “His campaign ought to be reimbursing the Treasury for the cost of this trip.”

On Wednesday, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus raised serious legal questions. Mr. Priebus asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether government funds are being misused for the benefit of Obama for America. “He’s done more campaign events than his predecessor and set a new standard for raising money courtesy of the American taxpayer,” Mr. Priebus told The Washington Times.

The GOP leader added that despite White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s assertion that the president spends 5 percent of his time on political activities, RNC staff calculated Mr. Obama has spent five full workweeks fundraising at taxpayer expense in the last 12 months. That’s in addition to puttering around for the equivalent of four weeks on the golf course by our calculation.

For security reasons, presidents have to use Air Force One, but the campaigns are required to pay back Uncle Sam for all the travel expenses for the staff brought along for political purposes. The Air Force One 747 costs $179,750 an hour to fly, although the reimbursement is done per person at the rate of flying on a chartered 737 jet.

There is little known about how much the Obama campaign has reimbursed the government so far, but whatever the amount, it is far below the enormous expense of transporting the White House entourage.

Mr. Obama has given up on governing so he can save his job. In doing so, he has abandoned Americans who are struggling with record-high unemployment. At the very least, taxpayers shouldn’t get stuck holding the check for Mr. Obama’s neglect.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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