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Police chief 'shocked' he wasn't stiffed by Donald Trump on a bill for rally security

WILKES-BARRE, PENNSYLVANIA, USA - SEPTEMBER 3, 2022: Former President of the United States Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at a Save America rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on September 3, 2022. Former President of the United States Donald J. Trump commented on the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida to the crowd. (Photo by Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Former President of the United States Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at a Save America rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on September 3, 2022.
  • Wilkes-Barre Township Police Chief Will Clark had low expectations when billed Donald Trump's political action committee.
  • Trump's presidential campaigns were notorious for stiffing police departments on bills for special security details.
  • Save America PAC paid the department for the latest event. Trump's campaign still owes them for an event in 2018.

Wilkes-Barre Township Police Chief Will Clark had low expectations when he sent an invoice recently to Donald Trump's political action committee.

Trump's presidential campaigns were notorious for stiffing police departments on bills for special security details at political rallies across the country. Clark's own department in Pennsylvania still has an unpaid bill for extra security at a "Make America Great Again Rally," back in 2018.

Now he was asking for a new payment of $9,820.62 to cover police and public works overtime at Trump's "Save America" rally at the Mohegan Sun Arena in September.

So when the check arrived weeks later, Clark said he briefly considered bronzing a copy and hanging it on the wall "to forever memorialize the fact that we got reimbursed."

"I fully anticipated that this one would not get paid either but we were shocked," he said, adding it's "obviously a huge benefit to the taxpayer."

Though Trump has conducted multiple rallies, Save America PAC appears to have paid for police security services in one location during the 2022 election cycle — Wilkes-Barre Township in Pennsylvania, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures reviewed by Insider.

It's unclear how or why the town apparently got lucky with Trump, who's now preparing to run for president again in 2024. 

Trump Save America PAC payment image from FEC
A filing with the Federal Election Commission from former President Donald Trump's Save America political action committee that indicates it paid a bill for police "security services" from Wilkes-Barre Township in Pennsylvania related to protecting a Trump rally.

During Trump's campaigns, more than a dozen cities across the nation — including Minneapolis; Spokane, Washington; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Erie, Pennsylvania — said the Trump campaign wouldn't pay police and public safety bills that together totalled nearly $2 million.

All the while, Trump promoted himself as a pro-police candidate who routinely chided Democrats as soft on crime and anti-law enforcement.

"LAW & ORDER, NOT DEFUND AND ABOLISH THE POLICE," Trump tweeted in June 2020.

Many cash-strapped governments appealed to Trump's sense of duty. The government of El Paso, Texas, played hardball, threatening legal action to force Trump's political operation to pay a police bill that, after late fees, ballooned into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But El Paso never got paid, and many municipal governments stopped bothering to try to recoup costs altogether, figuring the effort and expense was no longer worth their trouble.

Clark gave up on seeing the nearly $22,000 he said the Trump campaign owed his department and its partners for overtime at the 2018 event, which required more personnel because he was then a sitting president. 

Along with the Trump campaign, Clark also tried sending the bill to the Republican National Committee and Lou Barletta, the Trump-endorsed former Pennsylvania congressman who failed to oust Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in that race. 

"We never received payment from any of them," he said.

Trump's office, the Republican National Committee, and Barletta's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Wilkes-Barre Township Police Chief Will Clark
Wilkes-Barre Township Police Chief Will Clark.

Who pays to protect Trump rallies? 

Paying to protect Trump at his many rallies has become a Catch-22.

Unless a Trump rally is conducted at a government-run facility where local officials can require a use-of-facility contract, local police have limited leverage to compel Trump — or any political figure — to pay for public safety measures needed to secure an event at a private venue that may attract thousands of people and potential protestors.

The Trump campaign said in 2020 that public safety billing inquiries should go to the Secret Service. But the Secret Service says Congress hasn't provided funding for the agency to reimburse local police for the help they provide securing Trump events.

While some political candidates have dutifully paid campaign-related police bills — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas paid them all during his 2016 presidential bid, for example — others, including the campaign of President Barack Obama, have been inconsistent. Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016 didn't pay bills during his presidential campaign until months after the fact, after facing pressure to do so.

Police departments owe it to the general public to provide security when major events land in their communities, Clark said. But forcing taxpayers to pay for extra operations can be a "sore spot."

"It's a win. It's a major win," Clark said, when a private organization reimburses the department for those extra costs. "Our municipality is certainly financially stable, but that doesn't mean we should let reimbursements go ignored. Part of being financially responsible to the taxpayer is to seek the most efficient means of providing the police services needed. In instances where these due bills are left unpaid it ultimately is the taxpayer who foots the bill for extra police coverage, and that isn't necessarily fair to them."


Clark said his department has received two payments for police overtime at Trump events – one in 2016 along with the latest event in September.

"So we're two for three," he said. "That in baseball lingo is a 66% average on getting reimbursed and so that's pretty good."

The September 3 event at the Mohegan Sun was a rally in support of Doug Mastriano and Mehmet Oz, GOP candidates for governor and US senator in Pennsylvania, who both lost on Election Day.

The event required seven additional police officers, 15 local county sheriff's deputies who assisted and overtime costs for Department of Public Works employees, who used dump trucks to temporarily block off a highway for Trump's entrance. 

The Times-Tribune of Scranton described the crowd applauding as a man in a star-spangled cowboy hat shouted the message on a banner held by eight people: "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for Trump."

A day earlier, some activists, apparently with a permit, burned flags for Trump, the Confederate States of America, Nazi Germany, and the former Soviet Union outside the township's municipal building. But Clark said there were no arrests or protesters on the day of the rally.

"Everything went smooth," he said.

Clark said he didn't do anything unusual for his successful billing. He found a contact for Save America, dropped an invoice in the mail "and lo and behold, we got a payment."

"When the costs are reasonable … you're probably more likely to see them reimbursed," he said.

To date, there's only one other known instance of late — also unexplained — where the Trump campaign paid some of the money it owed a municipal government. In this case, it was the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin, for a 2020 campaign event that then-Vice President Mike Pence headlined.

The city received a check for $5,574 — even if it was 10 cents short.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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