In response to the Republican National Committee earlier today filing a formal complaint with the Government Accountability Office and the comptroller general alleging that the Obama campaign “has been cheating the American taxpayer by using taxpayer dollars to fund their general election efforts,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz asserted that the president’s travel “has been part of the president’s official responsibility.”
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus alleged in his letter, “Throughout his administration, but particularly in recent weeks, President Obama has been passing off campaign travel as ‘official events,’ thereby allowing taxpayers, rather than his campaign, to pay for 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.”
He charged that “the most recent example of such misuse came [Tuesday] in North Carolina and Colorado … to deliver speeches to cheering crowds of college students, events widely reported to be equivalent to campaign rallies. Today he will hold another similar event in Iowa. Ostensibly these campaign stops were meant to support student loan legislation (which ironically President Obama didn’t even take the time to vote on during his short tenure in the U.S. Senate). Please note that President Obama traveled to three states largely considered to be electoral battlegrounds to promote this legislation. One might imagine that if this were genuinely a government event he might have stopped in a non-battleground state like Texas or Vermont.”
Schultz said the travel to three universities in three battleground states allowed the president “to get outside of Washington, D.C., hear from students, and discuss stopping interest rates on their loans from doubling in July – just like Friday’s trip to Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Ga., to meet with troops, veterans, and military families is likewise part of the president’s official responsibilities. When there is political travel, we follow all rules and regulations that all other administrations have followed.”
White House officials noted that Rich Bond, the former chair of the RNC, dismissed a similar complaint when lodged by Democrats against President George W. Bush. Eight years ago this month, Bond called the complaint “‘nonsense. … Using federal government assets is unavoidable in terms of having contact with everyday people and it’s a topic that White House lawyers from Ford to Carter to Reagan to Bush to Clinton and now to Bush have all struggled with to make sure that you don’t break the law.”
Referring to the president and first lady’s Friday trip to Ft. Stewart in Hinesville, Ga., a White House official noted that surely the RNC isn’t suggesting that Georgia is a battleground state.