The Trump campaign has yet to pay bills from past visits to Mesa and Tucson as he announces plans to visit Phoenix.
President Donald Trump’s campaign announced plans last week to hold a rally in Phoenix later this month. But two Arizona cities that have played host to Trump rallies say he still needs to pay his bills.
Mesa and Tucson join eight other cities nationwide owed money by the Trump campaign for expenses resulting from his rallies. In total, Trump still owes $841,000 for previous rallies, 17% of which comes from Arizona.
His last rally in Arizona took place at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport on Oct. 19, 2018 at the behest of then-candidate Sen. Martha McSally, who thought his presence would give her a boost in a tight Senate race against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
Anticipating large crowds, the city of Mesa brought in extra security and made temporary parking areas to accommodate attendees. Approximately 12,000 people attended the rally, but even Trump’s presence was not enough to secure a victory for McSally. McSally lost to Sinema by less than two percent of the vote, only to join her opponent in the Senate by way of appointment to fill John McCain’s seat.
But McSally wasn’t the only one who didn’t get what she wanted from Trump’s visit. The city of Mesa’s involvement in the rally cost $64,000. When officials sent the Trump campaign an invoice, it was left unpaid.
Mesa officials did not respond to questions from Copper Courier regarding the event, but an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that as of June 2019, Mesa has still not been reimbursed.
“It is our hope that the organization will do right by the taxpayers of Mesa and provide payment in a timely manner,” Mesa Deputy City Manager Scott Butler told CPI when asked about the unpaid bill.
The first time his campaign skipped out on a bill was after a rally held in Tucson on March 19, 2016. Then-candidate Trump attracted 5,000 people to hear him speak at the Tucson Convention Center. The city sent 180 police officers to the event to act as security and keep the peace.
The following month, the city sent an invoice to the Trump campaign, requesting reimbursement for the $81,000 it cost to have officers at the event. The invoice was never paid. Tucson Chief of Staff Lane Mandle told CPI the incident has led the city to be more cautious when dealing with political campaigns.
“We will always provide the law enforcement and public safety support and response that is necessary to ensure the safety of the public,” said Mandle. “But [in the future] we intend to use revised agreements that identify certain costs that we expect the campaign to cover.”
The Copper Courier reached out to the Trump campaign as to whether there are plans to pay money owed from the Mesa and Tucson rallies. Officials have yet to respond.
Despite–or perhaps as a result of–Trump’s trail of unpaid bills, those involved with his rally on at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum on February 19 in Phoenix aren’t worried about footing the bill. The reason? They made him pay upfront.
Brianda Martinez, a representative from the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, confirmed that the campaign has already paid for the venue in full. Though Martinez did not say what it costs to rent the coliseum, the price tag for past events of similar size has been $100,000.
This is Trump’s first visit to Phoenix since 2017, when a violent clash between protestors, counter-protests, and police made national headlines and ended with tear gas-filled streets.
Unlike Tucson, Phoenix’s police presence at the campaign rally didn’t come with an invoice. The same is expected this year. City of Phoenix Communications Director Julie Watters says this is due to a difference in policy surrounding public safety.
“The city did not bill the Trump campaign for any costs related to providing security or public safety in 2017,” Watters said in an emailed statement. “And currently that practice remains.”
The campaign was charged roughly $46,000 for its use of the Phoenix Convention Center. Watters confirmed that the venue was paid for before the rally took place.