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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

September 12, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Obama visit costs Seattle $40k; Medina bills former Costco CEO

President Obama’s July 22 political fundraising visit cost Seattle taxpayers about $40,000 in police overtime bills, according to the city.

Seattle plans to absorb that cost, said Jeff Reading, a spokesman for Mayor Ed Murray. “It’s not been the city’s policy to bill for a presidential visit of any kind,” Reading said in an email. (The city’s precise cost was $39,474.)

But across Lake Washington, the city of Medina has followed through on its promise to bill former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal to recoup its police expenses related to the Obama visit.

That invoice won’t strain Sinegal’s wallet: the bill amounted to just $2,467.73. A letter requesting Sinegal pay that amount was sent Thursday, according to a copy provided to The Seattle Times by Medina City Manager Michael Sauerwein.

Obama’s July 22 visit to the area was purely political. The president attended two fundraisers: one for the Democratic National Committee at the Seattle home of Bruce Blume, a commercial real-estate developer, and a closed-to-the-media event at Sinegal’s home to raise cash for a Democratic Super PAC.

A presidential visit always includes a massive security presence from local law enforcement, who block off highways and roads as the presidential motorcade passes through. A similar political fundraising visit by Obama in 2012 cost local law-enforcement agencies $100,000.

The letter to Sinegal was sent by his hometown of Hunt’s Point, which contracts with Medina for police services.

Reached by phone, Sinegal said he has not received the bill, but will not object as long as the policy is applied fairly. “I assume they’ve done this consistently in the past: or do they just do it to Democrats? If it’s a consistent policy, I don’t have any problem paying it,” he said.

Sauerwein said there is no partisan bias at work. He said his intent is to charge such costs if extra police are needed for a private concert or other gathering. “It doesn’t even have to be a political event,” he said.

But cities large and small usually just absorb the cost of such political visits.

Hunt’s Point was stuck with a $24,000 bill for a 2003 visit from then-President George Bush at the home of telecommunications magnate Craig McCaw. McCaw reportedly would have paid the bill but was limited by campaign-finance limits and the city was unsuccessful in finding another donor.

| More in Politics Northwest | Topics: Jim Sinegal, Medina, police costs


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