(CNN) – President Barack Obama isn't just playing politics - he may be committing fraud on the taxpayer's dime, the Republican National Committee charged on Wednesday.
In a letter to the Government Accountability Office from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, the committee requested an investigation into Obama's recent travel - including trips this week to Iowa and North Carolina - alleging those trips were more political than official.
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The White House and Obama For America, the president's reelection campaign, go to great lengths to distinguish between official and campaign activities, as do elected officials and their reelection efforts at various levels of government.
But Obama's recent speeches, the RNC said in the letter, were "events widely reported to be equivalent to campaign rallies." The committee's case sees supporting evidence in a list of the states Obama has visited this month, including the general election battlegrounds of Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio.
It's a blurry line, to some extent.
"This speech was high on class warfare, slogans, and divisive campaign-style rhetoric," the letter said of a recent official event earlier this month in Florida.
When candidates travel by government means - such as a president traveling by Air Force One to a campaign event - Federal Election Commission regulations require the campaign to reimburse the government at a market rate. Typically, this means campaigns pay the cost of first-class airfare for the candidate and any campaign staffers. Travel by Air Force One - which costs over $180,000 per hour - is much more expensive than the price tag for commercial seats.
Such scheduling allows "his reelection campaign to save on fuel for Air Force One," the letter said. The government picks up an even greater share of the total tab for a trip combining both campaign and official events.
Responding to the letter, White House Spokesman Eric Schultz maintained the president's travel was part of his "official responsibility" to leave Washington and hear from citizens about major issues.
“This week’s travel has been part of the President’s official responsibility to get outside of Washington, DC, hear from students, and discuss stopping interest rates on their loans from doubling in July – just like Friday’s trip to Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Georgia to meet with troops, veterans, and military families is likewise part of the President’s official responsibilities. When there is political travel, we follow all rules and regulations that all other Administrations have followed," Schultz said in the statement.
Also weighing in, the Obama campaign manager told reporters Wednesday that the campaign would follow campaign finance rules.
"As in other administrations, we'll follow all of the rules and regulations to ensure that the committee pays for whatever is required for the president and the first lady to travel to political events," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters Wednesday. "These are very specific rules that are similar to what Bush and Clinton and other presidents have had to do, and they're very clear and we will abide by all of those in our usual way."
While Democrats may see the RNC's letter as spin - this president is far from the first to take his official agenda on the road - and Air Force One as an advantage for the president, Republicans may see the opposite spin in the pushback from another Obama reelection official.
"There's no doubt that Governor (Mitt) Romney has an advantage," campaign senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters, referencing the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. "He hasn't had a job in six years, and he famously jokes that he's unemployed, but he's been running for president for six solid years. And he's got every day, 24 hours a day to run for president. Now we don't have that. We don't have that advantage."
– CNN White House Correspondent Dan Lothian contributed to this report.
Who paid for Bush's farewell tour ? Who paid for Cheney's mash unit that had to follow him around ?
The GOP is the most pathetic organization on this planet. They have tried to get every democratic President out of office how many times?
I mean, how is the President supposed to travel, especially in this hate-filled country? In a convertible? Has the GOP forgotten President Kennedy?
Oh wait...I guess they haven't.
I remember chaffing when W spent my tax dollars obviously campaining. So what is new? Obama/Biden 2012
partisan politics. zzzzzzzzz. If you yell loud enough, even though you know you're wrong some people will believe you. Really childish.
i agree there should be an investigation. Obama is spending none of his campaign money. He goes on trips under the guise of complaining and blaming people when it is all campaigning. Is he that scared of losing. Sure looks like it.
Sounds like a bunch of Demo complaining again. Have you ever talked with one? They want to do all of the talking and not allowing you to just voice your opinion. Just following their leader Chairman Obama. There are better things to talk about. How about how much money Obama is spending foolishly. Oh there go the whiners again. They do not like it when others have a brain. Instead they copy what mulatto says. Just exercising my freedom of speech while I have a chance before Obama and Pelosi take that away.
if only obama spent as much as Bush did!!!!! we would have a lot less debt.
Is there no depth so deep that the GOP will not find a way to sink to it? They keep this crap up and they will for sure just shoot themselves in the foot.
GOP has nothing to offer to our country other than divisive politics and beaching about things. They want Obama to look bad when the President has done so much considering he had no support from those across the aisle. He has stabilized the economy, saved the banking industry, destroyed Osama Bin Laden, got rid of foreign dictators without shading American blood unlike the our previous dumb president and his Republican Party that lied to us in leading us to war and murdered people of Iraq who had done us no harm losing several thousand of our good soldiers.
No worries. Everyone knows that Obama can do no wrong. Fraud, thievery, extortion and lying are only things Republican's do. And Obama is just being the great Honeymoon president enjoying his first paying job of his life. If he wants to fly around doing political work instead of president stuff on the public dime, it's OK. He's Obama and he's awesome, just like Oprah say.
The GOP and their lemmings still need to get on their knees and thank Barack Obama. After all, they were squawking DEFEAT HILARY in 2007-and they got what they wanted. By the way, she will be back in 2016!!!
Once again, the G.O.P is showing that when they cannot win a debate fair-and-square, they resort to lying, cheating and playing silly games. All presidents use the bully pulpit to push their agenda. All of a sudden, when a Democrat refuses to sit back and allow them to act like kids, they go out and do just that–act like kids. I have never seen so many whiny adults in my life. They all need to grow up & get a pair!
Interesting argument. Weak though since every other president before him has had to juggle office responsibilities and campaigning. This is current law that is up for a vote so it falls squarely into presidential duties.
Isn't odd how senators and congressmen only think the president or vp traveling on tax dollars is cheating when the president is of the other party? In fact it kinda smacks of petty partisan tactics.
And yet 6 billion dollars a year of free tax payers money to the oil companies was just fine by Republicans....even Republicans are embarrassed to be associated with their own party.....