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BushCo Traveling in Style on Our Dime

by Pamela Leavey

If you’re like me you couldn’t afford much of a summer vacation this year. The economy sucks, gas prices are out of sight and travel just isn’t in the budget. It stinks to to give up a summer of excursions to the beach with the kids, I know… but think of it this way — you’re making sacrifices for the country… like helping to elect more Republicans. But wait — I know are readers are liberals and progressives and we’re all working hard to get Democratic candidates elected. What on earth is she talking about, you ask? Read this:

Bankrolled almost entirely by taxpayers, President Bush is roaming far and wide on Air Force One to help Republicans retain control of Congress and capture statehouse contests in high-stakes midterm elections.

High-dollar Washington galas headlined by the fundraiser-in-chief brought in a big share of the total. The president also has scooped up campaign cash in 36 cities, travels that have taken him as near as McLean, Va., in the Washington suburbs and as far as Medina, Wash., 2,800 miles to the west. On Thursday, Bush adds yet another locale to the list: Salt Lake City.

All this to-and-fro presidential politicking is only expected to increase as November draws closer. And it is the taxpayers, not the campaigns or political parties, who foot most of the travel bill.

When Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, first lady Laura Bush or any federal official helps a candidate, Federal Election Commission guidelines say the campaign must reimburse the government only the equivalent of a first-class fare for each political traveler on each leg of the trip. Typically, that means paying a few hundred or at most a few thousand dollars to cover the president and a couple of aides from the White House Office of Political Affairs.

The White House deems staffers from any other office “official,” eliminating any need for campaigns to cover their travel.

And the White House requires reimbursement only if the president specifically advocates a candidate’s election, for instance by headlining a fundraiser or a rally on their behalf. That means that staging appearances alongside the president – from Air Force One’s jetway or at a policy event – costs a candidate nothing even though they can bask in the media spotlight.

Ain’t that a bitch, we’re footing the bill for Dubya’s campaign events that cost the candidate zilch…

Beside the substantial Air Force One costs, other expenses not covered by the airfare reimbursement are extensive.

The Secret Service provides massive presidential protection. Advance teams fan out before trips to map every move. Overnight stays bring hotel costs for the large presidential entourage. Duplicate motorcades of well over a dozen vehicles each, including armored limousines and sometimes several helicopters, must be shipped ahead on cargo planes to every city.

Like others before it, the White House often transfers more of the bill-paying burden onto taxpayers by pairing an “official” event with the political one. Then, the percentage of time spent on official and political duties is calculated to determine what portion of the first-class fare is owed by the campaign.

So, it’s legal, as AP reports, for taxpayers, no matter what their party affiliation, to foot the bill — but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

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