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News Sources Contest Romney’s Campaign Trail Charges
Were the fees deliberately exorbitant, or was Romney’s campaign so mismanaged that they had to charge reporters extra for their place following them on the campaign trail? Nine news outlets think it’s the latter, yet still aren’t budging on their rejection of expenses for the recent election that charged at times $812 per person per meal, as they were on October 11 for a single meal and a rented “holding place” for the press to await the upcoming event.
The nine news outlets signed a joint letter Monday, addressing former campaign officials that the bills are far too high, much more than is expected on the campaign trail. Specifically, they are contesting events with cost that exceeds $200. They are requesting detailed price breakdowns for these specific events.
Sources opine that this is due to bad campaign management in which staffers resorted to grabbing the press’s overpriced food. As the letter said, “… it was clear to all present that the campaign’s paid staff frequently consumed the food and drinks ostensibly produced for the media.”
The letter reads in full:
To: Romney For President campaign
From: Members of the Romney press corps
To Whom It May Concern:
We’ve dealt with numerous campaigns over the past decades and understand that we pay a premium to travel with a candidate. But recent invoices from your campaign have raised serious questions about the charges you have forwarded to us for travel with Mitt Romney.
We are not quibbling over charter flights or hotel bills. We are focused on what appear to be exorbitant charges for food, filing centers/holds and ground transportation.
Some examples: $745 per person charged for a vice presidential debate viewing party on Oct. 11; $812 charged for a meal and a hold on Oct. 18; $461 for a meal and hold the next day; $345 for food and hold Oct. 30.
These costs far exceed typical expenses on the campaign trail. Also, it was clear to all present that the campaign’s paid staff frequently consumed the food and drinks ostensibly produced for the media. Were any of the costs of these events charged to the campaign itself, to cover the care and feeding of its staff? We would like to see how exactly the costs were determined for any specific event above $200, including the amounts you were charged and to whom you in turn assessed charges.
We have similar concerns about ground transportation costs, which at times exceeded $1,000 a day and were far higher per capita than what the campaign charged during the primaries–despite the larger numbers of reporters, photographers and television crews travelling and dividing the costs. One news organization contacted two of the bus agencies used by the campaign; it was clear from their reporting that the costs you charged us far outdistanced what you paid for the transportation.
In order to travel with the candidate, reporters were required to agree to costs in advance without knowing specifically what those costs would be. The trade-off in any such agreement is that the campaign will not exceed the normal bounds of propriety in charging news organizations. In this case, that is seriously in question.
Some of our organizations have alerted American Express that we are contesting these charges. We look forward to your response.
Campaign 2012 Editor
Los Angeles Times
Washington Bureau Chief
The Wall Street Journal
Dow Jones Newswires
New York Times
Director for North America
Senior Editor, Politics and National News
Washington Bureau Chief