Not specific to any one president or party but using Trump as the most recent example.

Trump has been on the road for weeks campaigning for the Republican Party midterm elections. I've searched around and see some references that the political party should pay for these expenses, but the president's mobility costs millions and millions of dollars each day. Secret Service, Air Force One, limos, local police, I'd think a few weeks on the road would run the party dry pretty quickly if they had to foot the bill.

If the American people are footing at least part of the bill for this, why is it allowed?

  • Since Trump is soo rich, surely he pays. Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 19:51

2 Answers 2


The way it often works is that a President doesn't travel explicitly for campaign purposes.

The trip is often billed as official business. In other words, the trip would supposedly occur regardless of any political campaign or cause.

The thinking then goes, "but hey, what the hell, while I'm there, let's do a fund-raiser with George Clooney" or "... a rally for Senator Ted Cruz".

There are variations of this paradigm, but the basic concept is generally the same.

This allows the taxpayers to "legitimately" pay for all expenses relating to the President's trip. (If the trip were presented exclusively for campaign purposes, the opposition party, government watchdog groups, and others would be crying foul and demanding reimbursement of taxpayer funds.)

For a more detailed analysis of these Presidential trips (along with examples), see this article:

Below are a few excerpts from the article (posted for readers outside the US who cannot access the Chicago Tribune website).

Trump's travel expenses test boundaries of policy and politics

President Donald Trump has reveled in smashing political precedent, but on Thursday he followed his White House predecessors in one of Washington's usually unspoken traditions: blurring the lines between a campaign trip and official business.

Jetting aboard Air Force One for a quick day trip to western Pennsylvania, Trump delivered a 25-minute speech at a heavy equipment manufacturing company. Though aides touted the visit to the facility in Coraopolis as a chance for Trump to promote his legislative agenda, an ulterior motive was not so thoroughly disguised.

"Will be going to Pennsylvania today to give my total support to RICK SACCONE," Trump wrote in a morning tweet. He was referring to the GOP candidate in a closely contested congressional special election in the district where the president was headed. "Great guy," Trump declared.

Reporters quickly noted the discrepancy, prompting Trump's press secretary to issue a statement reiterating that the trip was, in fact, official business. But by then, Trump had given voice to a reality of the modern presidency - mixing politics and policy comes with the job.


Presidents stretching back to at least Ronald Reagan have unabashedly doubled up on their to-do list while planning presidential travel, especially in election years, giving policy speeches by day and attending fundraisers at night.

Government watchdogs have raised red flags over such dual-purpose jaunts and who pays for them.


  • 1
    Is there any chance of getting some of those Chicago Tribune points, or the conclusion into the answer? Currently the Chicago Tribune is unavailable in the EU.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 12:39
  • I'll try to get that done after work today. Out of curiousity, do you know why it's not available? Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 12:41
  • It says "We continue to identify technical compliance solutions" and explicitly names the EU market. So I can only assume it is something to do with recent data protection legislation GDPR.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 12:44
  • @Jontia, I have added a few excerpts from the article. Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 12:40
  • 1
    Thanks for the excerpts. Looking forward to reading the whole thing once the EU thing is sorted out.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 16:23

A sitting President gets some slack in campaigning for re-election because they do still require a security detail and transportation. Both sides have figured out that, as long as it's not explicitly a campaign event, they can get taxpayers to foot some or all of the bill.

As noted during Obama campaigning for Clinton

In the most recently available figures, the cost of operating Air Force One averages approximately S180,118 per hour, according to the Air Force. This figure includes fuel, food, repairs, and basic maintenance.

"As is the standard practice, the campaign will cover its portion of the costs," a Clinton aide told ABC News.

But while relevant political organizations may be on the hook for paying part of the costs associated with the plane’s operation, there are additional security costs associated with presidential travel that do fall to the taxpayers.

Basically, Obama went campaigning for Clinton, who rode along with her entourage. Obama's travel entourage were taxpayer funded, while Clinton's campaign had to reimburse for riding along.

In the case of political figures flying aboard Air Force One, as was the case today with Hillary Clinton and several of her campaign aides who also traveled with her, Painter said they did not get a free ride.

There’s a formula by which they are charged for their flight comparable to the cost of a commercial first class ticket, he said.

  • Have you looked into parallel events. Often, the administration will schedule job related visits that just happen to intersection with the campaigning efforts. Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 20:44
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    Is there any attempt to avoid abuse? In France, a President would suddenly decide to visit a school in the district in one of his/her party's candidate to a local election, officially to make a speech about the governmental policy on education, but will actually spend most of the visit and speech lauding the candidate's accomplishments and/or criticizing his/her opponent. The line between campaign and legitimate Presidential action is blurry, but there is an independent commission in France trying to avoid blatant abuses. Is there such a thing in the US?
    – Taladris
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 0:12
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    @Taladris In theory, that's Congress' job. In reality, both parties benefit from the status quo.
    – Machavity
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 0:23
  • 2
    Note that Trump officially(!) started his campaign the day he was sworn in. Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 19:50

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