Trump campaign still owes Arizona cities thousands in past event fees

The Trump campaign held events in Mesa and Tucson in recent years, and reportedly owe the cities $145K combined.
Updated: Oct. 5, 2022 at 8:45 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Former President Donald Trump will be back on the campaign trail in Arizona on Oct. 9, supporting Republican candidates ahead of early voting. However, when he takes the stage in Mesa, he will be doing so in a city where his campaign still owes tens of thousands of dollars for a past event.

“Hello, Arizona! We love being in Arizona!” President Donald Trump said before a crowd at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in October 2018.

He delivered that speech to an estimated 12,000 people. The City of Mesa billed the Trump campaign to turn the airport hangar into an event venue, charging for barricades, a temporary parking lot, and security. The total cost was nearly $65,000, a total that the city asked the campaign to reimburse them.

In a statement, the City of Mesa maintains they “believe the Trump 2020 campaign should reimburse our city for those taxpayer dollars, and we have invoiced the campaign accordingly.” But the city never received a payment.

Noah Bookbinder is the president of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. He says the issue of some candidates not paying is not new, but one campaign consistently dodging bills is rare. “I certainly don’t remember cases of this happening again and again with the same candidate,” Bookbinder said.

But the Trump campaign did pay for some costs. In 2017, Trump held a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center. According to city records, the convention center was paid by the Trump campaign for costs to host the event. The rest of the costs incurred by the city, including close to $400,000 for police and fire department response to protests, fell on the city to cover.

The year before, Trump had a rally at the Tucson Convention Center. Tucson billed the Trump campaign more than $80,000 for the event, including the need for crowd control for attendees inside the convention center and protesters outside of the venue. Our Tucson station, KOLD, reported that 150 officers were involved in securing the event.

After asking the campaign to pay the City of Tucson back, officials said, “ultimately the City Attorney determined that the City was not likely to prevail in a legal action, and ended collection efforts.”

Bookbinder says while there might not be a legal requirement to pay back a city, “it’s the right thing to do.” “They feel like the campaign chose to come there, the campaign should defray those costs but there’s not a uniform practice on that,” he said.

The Trump campaign wasn’t the only campaign that didn’t pay back costs to the City of Tucson. City officials said the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign did not pay for an event held that same week in 2016.

Trump has held more recent rallies in Arizona, including in Prescott Valley, where the officials say they intend on billing for services the city provided for a July 2022 rally. The city sent an invoice for more than $25,000 for road closures and public safety costs. Officials said that invoice will be sent to the event venue, the Findlay Toyota Center, which will then bill the event organizer.