The cost of campaigning

Local News

It won’t be long before presidential candidates once again make stops across Wisconsin, including potential stops in Eau Claire.

The 2016 election cycle left Eau Claire with debts that still have not been paid. The two main candidates from presidential campaign still haven’t reimbursed the city for costs tied to stops in town.

Now Andrew Werthmann and Kate Beaton of the Eau Claire City Council say they are working with law enforcement to implement new policies with the 2020 election cycle just around the corner.

“The basic thing is that we want to make sure that as presidential campaigns in 2020 are coming to our city and utilizing our police resources that we’re being reimbursed for that expense,” Werthmann said. “Whether that’s for safety of crowds, diversion of traffic or safety of the candidates”

According to city finance director Jay Winzenz, the Donald Trump campaign owes more than $47,000 to the city,

The Hillary Clinton campaign owes more than $6,000.

“I don’t expect that we will get paid by the Clinton or the Trump campaign for those invoices,” Winzenz said. “We’re really not expecting to receive that payment.”

Currently, candidates are only required to give a 3 day notice of when they will be in the city in order to request security for their events.

Beaton says that that needs to change.

“We’ve started conversations with the police chief and city staff to start to decide how we can work with candidates and their campaigns on the front end so that we’re working out the cost of protecting our citizens,” Beaton said.

Werthmann says there is a thin line to walk so that they do not discourage candidates from coming to the city which would be an infringement on their first amendment rights.

To combat this, the duo has proposed making the system similar to the current special events process in the city.

“One of things we are looking at possibly doing is similar to our special events permitting where if you know over 500 people are going to be at a specific event, you have to actually apply to the city to hold that event,” Werthmann said. “One issue that we are running into, that we have to be 100% mindful of is that whatever policy we pass is not restrictive on people’s right and ability to assemble.”

While the 2020 election season is getting into full swing, Werthmann says they will be working with Eau Claire Police to craft a new proposal.

He hopes that proposal could be voted on sometime in the next few months.

A statement from the Eau Claire Police Department reads in part:

The Eau Claire Police Department is committed on working with city leaders to develop a process to recover costs for services provided.

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