Police Department: New campaign policy not targeting any politician, party

$10,129.18. That’s the exact amount of money the city of La Crosse is still owed by political campaigns from 2016.

It was Aug. 11, 2016, when then-candidate Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, held a town hall at UW-La Crosse. The campaign stop cost the department $3,595.25 in security fees, according to invoices sent from the City of La Crosse to the Donald J. Trump for President campaign.

Just a few days later, Trump stopped in La Crosse for a private fundraiser. Police assisted with security, parking and other functions during Aug. 15 and 16. The Police Department racked up $6,308.93 in overtime costs.

The Donald J. Trump for President campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The day after the election, the department assisted for a Speaker Paul Ryan bus tour. It billed $225 for its services to the Dignitary Protection Division of the U.S. Capital Police. A third notice for this bill, along with the presidential campaign stop bills, were sent on June 21, 2017.

The Police Department said it works with campaigns before the stops to talk about payment. But it’s been more than three years and the department has yet to receive any reimbursement for these stops.

“We’ve had other presidential campaigns here in 2012 and 2008, where we’ve also done the same thing, where we’ve provided bills and they’ve gone unpaid,” said Sgt. Tom Walsh, of the La Crosse Police Dept.

Some got to be so old, the department stopped trying to get reimbursed.

“I think at this point we’re looking forward to the future,” Walsh said.

The Police Department said it has repeatedly tried to get the campaigns to pay for the overtime accrued during the stops. But a new policy looks to get some expected costs up front, so it doesn’t come out of the department’s budget.

To make sure it doesn’t end up paying the bill, the department will now require all presidential campaigns provide 50 percent up-front payment for anticipated expenses for overtime.

“It takes a lot of people to ensure the safety and make sure the routes are safe, to make sure the venues are safe,” Walsh said.

The department said this is not meant to be against any party or politician, and having these stops is exciting for the entire community.

“It really does showcase and highlight what a great area the La Crosse area is,” Walsh said.

But at the same time, the department wants to protect taxpayer funds.

“It does put a huge financial crunch on the department. We’re just asking that the campaigns to treat us fairly,” Walsh said.

The department has shared this policy with both parties at a state and local level. They are hoping to have a dialogue about this before any visits, especially because the Police Department is anticipating a number of stops in the area.

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