Politics

As President Trump heads to El Paso, he still owes the city $569,204

EL PASO, Texas - President Donald Trump publicly pledged “all the support of the federal government” on Saturday after 22 people were shot to death in an El Paso Walmart this past weekend.

But his statements are prompting charges of hypocrisy because the city claims the president’s political campaign owes an outstanding debt from a February campaign rally — specifically, more than half a million dollars.

As of Tuesday, El Paso city officials said Trump has yet to pay.

According to Laura Cruz-Acosta, communications manager for the El Paso city manager’s office, the president still has an outstanding bill of $569,204.63 for police and public safety services associated with a February campaign rally. (Below is a copy of the latest past due invoice obtained by ABC-7.)

“The city staff have followed the process and procedures as it relates to any invoicing that we provide, and we will continue to do so accordingly as per city and state policies,” Cruz-Acosta said. She said that Trump owed an initial fee of $470,417.05 but that the city tacked on a 21% one-time late fee in June — 30 days after the campaign failed to pay the initial amount owed.

Local officials have repeatedly harangued Trump for not covering the costs associated with his visit to the border city, with some contrasting his actions with those of Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who visited his hometown for a rally on the same day and has since paid his dues.

“Our resources are really strained right now,” said Alexsandra Annello, a member of the El Paso City Council. “Our police and fire are exhausted, our health department had for three days straight been working with the reunification of families. As you see from the bill, these are the services required for a presidential visit. In addition to financial costs, our community and resources are already strained and do not need this extra burden.”

The city helped accommodate O’Rourke’s and Trump’s dueling rallies with security and transportation for the thousands of people who flocked to both events. According to his invoice, O’Rourke was charged roughly $21,000 — which he paid back in May.

As ABC-7 previously reported, the city sent a letter to the Trump campaign in late May requesting he pay his outstanding debt. An invoice from that month stated that he owed six city departments money — with amounts ranging from $528 to $381,000.

“We are contacting you regarding the invoice(s) listed above,” the May letter reads. “We realize this may be an oversight on your part; however, your account with the City of El Paso is extremely past due.

“Your obligation to pay the invoice listed will remain on the City’s books indefinitely until the debt is paid in full. Furthermore, the City may choose to not enter into a contract with an individual that is indebted to the City for more than $100.00.”

A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on when, if at all, it planned to pay the city back. On Wednesday afternoon, Trump will visit El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, where another gunman killed nine people in that city’s entertainment district.

In the second quarter of 2019, Trump reported a whopping campaign haul of $26.5 million. But according to the Center for Public Integrity, city officials can’t force political campaigns to pay their debts unless they sign formal agreements with the campaigns. Still, some police groups say that candidates — who often amass multimillion-dollar war chests — who opt to hold campaign events around the country should compensate the cities they visit, even if they’re not legally required to do so.

“If it’s an election event, I would say the city would be within their rights to charge for those extra services that are required,” said AJ “Andy” Louderback, the Republican sheriff of Jackson County and past president and legislative director of the Sheriffs Association of Texas. He noted, however, that it’s the city’s responsibility to negotiate costs with candidates who opt to hold rallies there.


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