President Donald Trump’s campaign has threatened to sue the city of Minneapolis over the security costs related to a campaign rally.
The Trump campaign said in a statement to the press three days before the rally that the mayor of Minneapolis, Democrat Jacob Frey, had conjured a "phony and outlandish bill for security" for the Oct. 10 Target Center rally.
"Frey’s city government preemptively informed the Target Center that it would be responsible for $530,000 in security and other costs related to the event," the campaign wrote. "The Target Center attempted to pass the costs on to the Trump campaign under threat of withholding the use of the arena."
The statement said that the $530,000 is more than 26 times the estimated security costs for a 2009 health care rally held by President Barack Obama at the Target Center.
Minnesota has voted for Democrats for president for decades, but Trump has his eye on it because he narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton by about 1.5 percentage points. Minneapolis is a liberal bastion in a blue state.
"The lightweight mayor is hurting the great police and other wonderful supporters. 72,000 ticket requests already. Dump Frey and Omar! Make America Great Again!"
Frey responded on Twitter: "Yawn... Welcome to Minneapolis where we pay our bills, we govern with integrity, and we love all of our neighbors."
PolitiFact reached out to multiple city and police department officials as well as the Target Center and its manager, AEG Facilities, and did not receive any responses to our questions.
However, we did obtain a letter from AEG that cited an estimated $530,000 cost.
Hugh Lombardi, AEG Facilities’ general manager, sent a letter to the Trump campaign’s director of advance, Bobby Peede, on Oct. 7.
The letter states:
"The City of Minneapolis has presented a preliminary estimate of additional security and related costs associated with the October 10, 2019 Event at Target Center. These estimated additional expenses total $530,000."
The letter states it is the licensee’s responsibility "to coordinate through the Secret Service and pay for any law enforcement services necessary for the event."
The letter states that if these arrangements are not confirmed by 8 a.m. Oct. 8, then the agreement will be terminated "for breach of the Event Security provision."
The campaign wrote in a letter to AEG that the campaign and AEG are not required to pay for security and threatened to sue. (We have not seen a copy of the agreement.)
Casper Hill, a city spokesman, told PolitiFact that the public safety costs are expected to be around $400,000 and there are an additional $130,000 costs for lane closure fees and traffic control, among other things. The city examined the costs for other major recent events to determine the costs, including the Super Bowl in 2018, which was roughly $6 million, and $1.5 million for the Final Four men’s college basketball tournament earlier this year.
Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal told the Star Tribune that "it’s not fair" for residents to shoulder the costs. Segal told the Star Tribune that the city has been having conversations with organizations including the Twins, the Vikings and the Minnesota Ballpark Authority about sharing costs of events. Those discussions started before the Super Bowl in 2018, she said.
Minneapolis’ estimate, however, appears far higher than what it cost other cities to host Trump rallies. The Star Tribune reported that Trump’s rally in Rochester in 2018 cost the city government $76,138 while a rally in Duluth cost the city more than $69,000.
A national investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that among local governments that invoiced the Trump campaign, the amounts ranged between $8,000 to $82,000 for public safety costs related to rallies. The highest bill was from the city of El Paso for about $470,000.
On the day of the 2009 Obama rally, the Minneapolis police chief estimated the department’s costs to top $20,000 including for 50 officers on overtime at the 20,500-seat Target Center arena, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. We tried to confirm if that was the actual cost with police officials but did not get a response.
It isn’t unusual for local law enforcement agencies to be asked to swallow security costs, and Trump’s is not the only campaign to do so. The Center for Public Integrity found that Obama’s campaign didn’t always pay for security. Some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates didn't respond to the Center when asked about security bills while others said they will pay or had paid certain bills.
There is no specific requirement within the provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act or Federal Election Commission regulations for congressional or presidential campaign committees to pay for expenses incurred by a state or local government for campaign events, said Myles Martin, an FEC spokesman.
That means that campaigns can choose to reimburse governments for security costs, but they are not required.
A Secret Service spokesman told PolitiFact that it is not funded to pay police overtime and doesn’t have a mechanism to do so.
"This is a blank spot in campaign finance laws and campaigns often take advantage of it, as the Trump campaign is in Minneapolis this week," said Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier. "It's a low priority for Congress because it does not affect legislators' campaigns in a significant way."
There is, however, a mechanism for local law enforcement to seek reimbursement for protecting Trump’s residences in Florida, New York and New Jersey.
The Trump campaign said that the Minneapolis "city government preemptively informed the Target Center that it would be responsible for $530,000 in security and other costs" related to a Trump rally, "more than 26 times the estimated security costs for a 2009 Target Center health care rally held by President Barack Obama."
A letter from AEG to the Trump campaign cites the $530,000 estimated costs. An article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press paraphrased the Minneapolis police chief at the time stating that the costs would be $20,000 for an Obama rally.
We rate this claim True.