The Reported Local Cost of President Donald Trump’s Visit to Fargo Was Inflated, Actually “Closer to $10,000”


President Donald Trump enters Scheels Arena in Fargo on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. David Samson / The Forum

Last week it was reported that the local cost of President Trump visiting Fargo to rally for U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Cramer was about $104,000.

“I suspect that figure is a little bloated,” I wrote at the time, noting “the total includes the salaries of the law enforcement officers who worked security. I’m pretty sure that’s a sunk cost. Which is to say, it’s something taxpayers would be footing the bill for whatever those officers were doing, be it working security at a rally or making routine patrols.”

Turns out I was right. Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, who requested that the costs of the visit be tabulated (though, to be fair, he hasn’t objected to those costs at all), acknowledged that the real additional costs of having the President visit his city were much smaller.

“After Monday’s city commission meeting, Mayor Tim Mahoney said it actually cost closer to $10,000 more than the daily cost of law enforcement,” WDAY reported.

Unfortunately it’s the much larger, and inaccurate, number that has captured the attention of some critics.

“My anger was the only thing topping my astonishment when I saw The Forum article saying we ‘local taxpayers’ paid $104,528.22 for Kevin Cramer’s purely political campaign rally with President Trump in Fargo,” lawyer and professor Gray King writes in a letter to the editor today.

The Fargo City Commission, which includes Mahoney, even discussed asking the Trump campaign to reimburse the city for expenses using that inflated figure.

I don’t have a problem with calculating the costs of something like a presidential visit. The taxpayers should always be given a thorough accounting of how their money is spent. I don’t even have a problem with debating whether or not political campaigns ought to reimburse the taxpayers for security costs, though I oppose it. I think charging for police presence at lawful political assemblies is probably a sort of unconstitutional tax on free speech.

But that debate should be premised on accurate information.