Are they cheapskates? Obama, Romney rarely reimburse Ohio cities for cost of campaign visits

CLEVELAND - NewsChannel5 investigators have uncovered presidential campaigns fail to pay back Ohio cities and towns for overtime and other expenses incurred during campaign stops.

Our investigative team reviewed 47 campaign visits to Ohio by President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney between Feb. 16 and Oct. 25 this year. We only found two visits where the cities who hosted the candidates were reimbursed for their expenses.

Gov. Romney's campaign reimbursed the city of Brunswick $3,810 for security costs for Romney's Father's Day visit to Mapleside Farms. Romney's campaign also reimbursed the city of Cuyahoga Falls $7,050 for expenses related to a rally on Oct. 8.

Fairlawn Mayor William Roth sent President Obama's campaign a letter requesting reimbursement for the $34,116.33 it spent on security and supplies during Obama's overnight stay at the city's Hilton Akron/Fairlawn Hotel July 5.

"We would expect some sort of response and we have received nothing to date," said Roth, who was asked to construct a fence around the hotel and to provide police, fire and service workers.

"We have to watch all our pennies We have to make sure that we spend our money wisely. And, really, you're now having a taxpayer subsidizing a campaign event, that's really not the intent of our budget...it was not a governmental purpose," he said.

A Maumee, Ohio official said city officials also billed President Obama's campaign. The official said the president's July 5 visit cost the city $19,000. Officials said they have not received any money from the campaign.

The city of Mansfield sent a bill to the president's campaign for $21,552.03 from an Aug. 1 campaign visit. Officials in Mansfield also said they have not been paid back. Mansfield officials said they also plan to bill Governor Romney's campaign for $840.43 that was spent during his Sept. 14 visit.

A city of Lorain official said the city will seek reimbursement for an April 19 visit by Gov. Romney due to the city's budget constraints.

"I think this is one of those murky areas that needs to be clarified in campaign finance law," said Tom Sutton, the chair of the political science department at Baldwin Wallace University.

Sutton said campaign finance laws do not spell out who is responsible for local campaign expenses.

"Certainly, this is not an issue of a shortage of money. We are a looking at a billion plus dollars total being spent total by each of these candidates to become president so surely there's gotta be money in those huge sums," he said.

However, officials in some Ohio cities said they do not mind footing the bill for presidential campaign visits.

"Anytime we get to show off Bedford Heights, it's a positive for us," said Mike Marotta, the Bedford Heights Police Chief.

Marotta said the city budgets for unexpected expenses. He said this year, its pent more money chasing down the "Bedford Bear", a black bear spotted running through town and up in a tree in September, than on Romney's Sept. 26 visit to American Spring Wire.

"Not to compare Gov. Romney to the bear, but that's kind of a similar case where we have to spend money to provide safety and security for the residents," said Marotta.

Officials with the cities of Cleveland and Akron also said the benefits of a presidential campaign visit outweigh the expenses.

"It is an honor and privilege to host the President of the United States in our City. Additionally, and the associated benefits of having a huge crowd visit Akron for the day, shop, and frequent our restaurants, is worth the associated costs," said Stephanie York, Akron's Director of Communications."

"We have...a duty and a responsibility to ensure the safety of our country's current and future leaders," said Marty Flask, Cleveland's Director of Public Safety. A review of Cleveland Police expenses alone showed the city spent $61,053.12 to protect President Obama during his Oct. 5 visit to Cleveland State University.

NewsChannel5 investigators asked both the Obama and Romney campaigns for on-camera interviews for this story.

The Romney campaign did not return our calls.

The Obama campaign turned down our request for an on-camera interview and refused to answer any questions on the record. The campaign sent us this statement:

"The US Secret Service takes the lead on all security matters with regard to President Obama. These are not decisions made by the campaign. Any local law enforcement organization contacted by the Secret Service to assist in security should discuss matters related to costs and how to effectively manage those costs with the Secret Service."

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