DENVER (AP) – A suburban Denver sheriff says he’s going to start sending political campaigns the tab when roads have to be closed, traffic directed and deputies put on overtime.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, a Republican, said he would send GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney a bill between $5,000 and $6,000 for “extraordinary” local security costs at a Romney rally planned for Centennial Monday afternoon.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for taxpayers to pay for a political campaign,” Robinson said Monday.
For the county, law enforcement agencies shelling out big bucks to provide campaign security is the downside of being a prized area for political candidates.
Arapahoe is a vote-rich swing county south and east of Denver. Republicans outnumber Democrats among its 235,000 or so active registered voters, but Democrats have had increasing success here in recent years.
Robinson said his 800-employee department isn’t pinched for funds, and won’t change security plans based on a candidate’s willingness to pay for extraordinary security.
“Will they pay? I don’t know. I guess I’ll cross that bridge later. In my mind, it’s just the right thing to do,” Robinson said.
A Romney spokeswoman, Amanda Henneberg, said that Robinson’s request is the first local security tab the campaign has encountered. She didn’t say whether the Arapahoe bill would be paid. Romney also planned stops in three other Colorado counties
Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama visited Arapahoe County on a five-state swing to promote ideas in his 2012 State of the Union address. Because that speech was an official visit, not a campaign event, Robinson said it would “inappropriate” to submit a security bill.
Also, Obama’s January visit was confined to Buckley Air Force Base, with military security, so county expenses were minimal, Robinson said.
Robinson pointed out that the U.S. Secret Service provides protection for current and former presidents, as well as certain presidential candidates. Romney currently is under Secret Service protection.
“Congress appropriates money for that security, to make sure those guys are properly equipped and adequately compensated,” Robinson said. “They don’t make any provision for the locals, though.”
Robinson concedes that his candidate billing is largely symbolic. In 2010, Robinson sent U.S. Senate campaigns bills for security. But Robinson says that neither Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet nor his unsuccessful Republican challenger, Ken Buck, ever paid the bills.
Robinson said he’s heard from cash-strapped sheriff departments in other counties and states, but doesn’t know of any local force that’s been paid for providing security for a politician’s visit. He insisted that security plans wouldn’t change if candidates start paying.
“First and foremost, my priority is public safety. We will make the events safe,” Robinson said.
By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
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