City councilmembers question whether Dallas should pay for costs of presidential campaign visits

President Donald Trump's campaign stop in Dallas Thursday went off without a hitch, thanks in large part to an expensive effort by the Dallas Police Department.

While Dallas has traditionally paid for the associated costs for dignitary visits, some on the city council are now questioning if the city should pay for costs connected to campaign stops.

A spokesman for Mayor Eric Johnson said that the mayor plans to ask a city council committee to look into whether the city should, in the future, ask campaigns to pay for security costs associated with Dallas campaign visits.

With 18,500 people inside the American Airlines Center, and thousands more outside, keeping everyone safe Thursday night came with a big price tag.

The city said President Trump's campaign stop cost Dallas approximately $170,000.

“Money we could be using for a lot of other services, to fix our roads, hire more officers, do other things,” Dallas City Councilman Lee Kleinman said.

Kleinman said that since the focus of the President's visit was getting re-elected, the campaign should pay for the costs, instead of taxpayers.

“If he's coming here on official business, to honor somebody, to do the business of the presidency, we should be providing that,” Kleinman said. “But it is really challenging when he and other candidates are coming here in a candidate role.”

While the city has historically provided the costs associated with presidential campaign visits, Kleinman said that doesn't mean the city should continue to do so.

“It's our role to challenge the status quo,” Kleinman added.

Which is what the city did in 2018, with the State Fair of Texas.

“During the State Fair, the city used to cover the tab for the officers out there during the fair. Interestingly enough, we just asked the State Fair to pay for it, and they said, okay,” Kleinman added. 

But SMU political science professor Cal Jillson said that getting a presidential campaign to pay up may not be so easy.

“A president will always think, ‘Everywhere I go, I'm President of the United States, and I'm on official business. I'm also on campaign business, but as President, I should be able to go anywhere in the country I want without having to worry about paying to be present,’” Jillson said.

A study by the Center for Public Integrity found that 10 cities have reported that the President's campaign has failed to pay bills for police expenses adding up to $841,000.

Most of the bills are under $50,000, but a bill from El Paso is for nearly $500,000.