Taxpayers Will Pay for Obama Bus Tour of Battleground States, Says White House

August 3, 2011 - 3:50 PM
President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama’s upcoming bus tour through the Midwest states typically viewed as swing states during presidential election years will be paid for by the taxpayers, the White House says.

Obama will start the tour on Aug. 15 and will talk about strengthening jobs and the economy, the White House announced on Tuesday.

“He is very happily getting out into the country again after a very sustained period here in Washington and he looks forward to talking to folks about growing the economy, creating jobs," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "We will have more details, as I said, about the specifics of the trip."

Carney indicated he did not know now precisely where the president would go or what he might be announcing.

CNSNews.com asked Carney, “Is that a campaign event or a presidential event?

Carney answered, “Negative. That is an official event.”

CNSNews.com followed, “So it is being funded by taxpayers in battleground states?”

Carney responded, “He’s the president of the United States.”

Another reporter followed up about whether there was a political nature to the trip.

“The air of cynicism is quite thick,” Carney shot back. “The idea that the president of the United States should not venture forth into the country is ridiculous.”

The reporter said, “I didn’t say that.”

Carney said, “No, but you implied it in your question. It is absolutely important for the president – whoever that person is, in the past or in the future – to get out and hear from people in different communities."

The national unemployment rate was 9.2 percent for the month of June, according to the Department of Labor.

A USA Today story published on July 17 asserted that half of the travels Obama made to 40 states (over the last 2.5 years) were to swing states, also called battleground states,  or because they are not predictably red (Republican heavy) or blue (Democrat heavy), or purple states. Those swing states likely will determine the winner of the 2012 presidential race.

Ohio, with 20 electoral votes, topped the list for Obama visits, according the newspaper’s analysis. Republican George W. Bush carried this state in 2000 and 2004, but Obama carried the state in 2008.

One of Obama’s narrowest victories in 2008 came in the Midwestern state of Indiana, with 11 electoral votes. Indiana has typically gone to Republican presidential candidates.

In other cases, the state of Michigan, with 17 electoral votes, has gone Democrat in the last five presidential elections. But Michigan is facing a 10.5 percent unemployment rate, which could present problems for an incumbent president. Meanwhile, Iowa has been volatile in recent cycles, as its seven electoral votes went for Democrat Al Gore in 2000, swung to Republican Bush in 2004 then swung back to Democrat Obama in 2008.

The generally accepted policies in place since the Reagan administration for incumbent presidents running for re-election are based on legal opinions from the Department of Justice and Federal Elections Commission (FEC), which say that taxpayers should cover the cost of official presidential travel while travel relating to the campaign will be reimbursed to the government through campaign funds.

According to the FEC, when a presidential or vice presidential candidate travels on the taxpayer’s dime for political purposes, they “pay the pro rata share of the fair market value of non-commercial flights.” Reimbursement guidelines include payment of the “lowest unrestricted and non-discounted first-class airfare in the case of travel between cities served by regularly scheduled first-class commercial airline service.”