COMMENTARY | Durham, N.H., has asked President Barack Obama's campaign to reimburse the city for the extra $20,000 to $30,000 it will cost taxpayers to host his campaign stop on Monday at the University of New Hampshire, according to Fox News. As a political consultant, I believe this precedence makes an interesting point of how strapped communities are and how politicians should take this into consideration while campaigning. This potential precedence could shift the direction of political campaigns in the future.
Durham officials point to the fact taxpayers will have to pay for extra police, fire safety and other expenses associated with the presidential campaign visit. Communities are still in financial peril from the economic crisis and have been doing everything they can to cut expenses due to less money coming in from reduced home values and/or decreased populations. While a campaign visit from President Obama will put Durham in the spotlight for a few minutes during nightly newscasts, the publicity will not help the taxpayers recoup their money.
If President Obama's campaign staff reimburses the money, other towns would request the same. Cities and towns that have already hosted campaign stops would be sure to do the same. Over time, the top expense for political campaigns would shift from advertising to reimbursing towns for their expenses. Who is to say this reimbursement would have to stay at the presidential level? It could filter to members of Congress and governors and reinforce the idea of those with the most money being able to campaign successfully as candidates with less money might not be able to make campaign stops during an election.
At the same time, if President Obama's campaign staff refuses to reimburse Durham, local issues will appear to be secondary and he will be accused of believing the losses in communities are secondary to his need to become re-elected. This could be a wake-up call for communities who will end up refusing campaign visits in an attempt to avoid excess expenses. The city leaders in Durham should be commended for opening a very interesting can of worms.