The White House on Thursday dismissed as "kinda ridiculous" complaints that President Barack Obama has been billing taxpayers for criss-crossing the country, giving speeches in states that could be critical to his reelection campaign.
Obama himself recently weighed in on the issue. The controversy centers on the arcane process by which taxpayers pick up the tab for "official" trips while his reelection campaign or the Democratic National Committee pays for "political" travel. When a presidential foray includes both kinds of events, the cost is divided according to a formula that presidents have declined to make public.
Asked whether taxpayers were improperly footing the bill, Obama press secretary Jay Carney replied: "They're not."
"We follow all the rules and regulations to ensure that the DNC or other relevant political committee pays what is required" for political travel, Carney said. "We go absolutely by the book."
The press secretary also hit out at critics who have noted that Obama's message at political events is largely indistinguishable from his official events. "The suggestion that there is something wrong with the fact that the president says the same thing about what his vision is, and what his policies are, and what his beliefs are in front of official audiences, non political audiences, as he does in front of audiences who are his supporters, I think is kinda ridiculous," Carney said.
But what about criticisms that Obama's election-year travel has skewed heavily towards battleground states like Ohio and Florida?
"We were recently in Oklahoma. I'm an eternal optimist, but I'm prepared to suggest that it's unlikely that anyone would call that a battleground state," Carney said. As for states like Virginia, Carney said, "the president should not be penalized for the fact that the voters of Virginia decided to vote for him."
"You're saying he cannot make official trips to a significant portion of the country because you guys have declared them battleground states?" the spokesman said. "It is impossible for him to appropriately do his job and travel around the country and talk with the American people if he is guided by that kind of narrow view."
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