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Campaign security: Bill candidates first

December 21. 2012 12:14AM

Many local elected officials in New Hampshire have bristled at having to pay sometimes tens of thousands of dollars to provide security for presidential candidates. Who can blame them? If they are doing their jobs, they are more concerned about their local budgets than about rubbing elbows with Presidents or would-be Presidents. Getting campaigns to pitch in, though, can prove difficult, which is why municipalities need firm policies on who pays for security for campaign events.

The Mitt Romney campaign was pretty good about paying for security costs for New Hampshire events during the general election. Nashua, Milford and St. Anselm College all billed the campaign, and the campaign paid the tab. The Obama campaign, on the other hand, repeatedly refused to pay.

In a response to this newspaper and a letter to Portsmouth, Obama campaign officials said they had no role in making security decisions, so the campaign should not be expected to pay. After employing that non-sequiter, the campaign directed local officials to the Secret Service, suggesting that federal taxpayers might help defray the burden placed on local taxpayers.

We do not find that at all surprising. To avoid such responsibility-shifting in the future, local governments should establish policies that state clearly whether they expect campaigns to pay for all or a portion of security costs. They should let campaign officials know of those policies in writing when events are planned, not after they happen. Then, if campaigns knowingly stiff the taxpayers, local officials will have something useful to share with the public.

Public Safety Elections Editorial

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