Taxpayers foot bill for 2016 campaign security

Is your governor running for president? If so, you’re probably paying for it. 

Across the country, millions of state tax dollars are being spent on governors’ security details as declared or presumed candidates travel the country campaigning for higher office – even though the expenditures are at times completely unrelated to state business.

When Gov. Chris Christie announces his 2016 plans at Livingston High School on Tuesday, New Jersey taxpayers will pay for the security of the event and the governor’s traveling security detail when he heads to the early primary state of New Hampshire hours later.

His campaign and office did not respond to requests on whether or not their organization would chip in for the added costs, but they haven’t in the past and Christie has defended the practice.

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“The small amount that we pay for travel — should I be reimbursing them when I go on vacation?” Christie said in 2012, adding that he’d like to get a break from the constant security detail but is not allowed. “I mean, where we going to end this? If I go on vacation with my family, they have to travel with me, should I reimburse them personally for that?”

Christie’s tab is just one of a handful of sitting and recent governors whose state will shell out significant dollars to ensure the security of the candidate as the run for higher office. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have all come under fire for state-funding of their political aspirations, as state police pay for the security detail on campaign trips. 

“We always are on the road with him when he travels,” New Jersey Trooper Capt. Stephen Jones told msnbc on Monday of Christie, confirming they’d be doing security at his Tuesday announcement and with any increase in travel that might occur in a campaign. “Obviously our presence with him will remain.”

The security details travel costs for the state’s governor have soared since Christie took office: troopers’ travel cost nearly $1 million in just over four years, according to New Jersey Watchdog. During the first three quarters of 2014, the governor’s security detail cost $32,933 per month, the nonprofit investigative blog reported citing documents obtained under the Open Public Records Act.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s traveling security detail is also paid for by taxpayers, despite lawmakers’ efforts to curb the spending amid a budget crisis. The state legislature wrote in a provision prohibiting such expenditures starting July 1, but Jindal line-vetoed it before signing the budget this month.

At last week’s presidential announcement, state troopers and local police controlled the security for the several-hundred person event at the Ponchartrian Center in Kenner, Louisiana, and travelled with him to Iowa and New Hampshire over the weekend.

State police spent $2.2 million on travel expenses related to Jindal’s security detail in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the agency told lawmakers, while the governor traipsed the nation raising his profile ahead of his presidential bid. That’s up from the $1.5 million spent on Jindal’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s detail and likely due to the governor’s significant out-of-state travels: in 2014, Jindal spent 165 days – roughly 45% – of the year out of the state.

Democrats slammed the spending at a budget hearing, according to the Associated Press, amid a $1.6 billion budget shortfall that lead to significant cuts and tax hikes.

“It seems like this is one of the areas in state government that has not been cut at all or restricted. Have we restricted the governor’s travel at all?” Democrat state Rep. Katrina Jackson asked. The head of Louisiana’s State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said no, and that the police were legally required to protect the governor and his family wherever they traveled.

Jindal campaign spokeswoman Shannon Dirmann said that the campaign leaves “all security decisions up to the Louisiana State Police” when asked if the campaign intended to pick up the tab at some point.

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Gov. Martin O’Malley’s campaign travels and out-of-state travel cost taxpayers $137,000 in 2014, NBC News reported, exceeding those of governors in neighboring states who weren’t eyeing a presidential bid. Now that he’s out of his office, his campaign will pick up the tab on security costs.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s political action committee agreed to cover some of the travel expenses in incurred by his security detail in April, after it was reported his security costs shot up 239% amid a recall election that included a number of death threats, as Walker regularly notes on the campaign trail.

Critics say that even technically state business is seen and covered as a campaign event in a presidential bid, like the February trip to Great Britain which cost taxpayers $138,000.

Former Gov. Rick Perry – who ran for president in 2012 and is again running this year – spent about $1 million a year on the costs for his security detail, the Texas Tribune reports. 

While state governments are picking up a significant portion of security on the 2016 tab, the federal government has a share too: Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has a full-time Secret Service detail, funded by federal taxpayers. She came under ire for a costly book tour, as she crisscrossed the country with a large security detail.

Now as a candidate, Clinton has made a point of cutting costs – forgoing the private jets of her book tour for a “Scooby van” but her security detail costs remain.

Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Martin O'Malley and Scott Walker

Taxpayers foot bill for 2016 campaign security