Taxpayers to pay security bill for Clinton visit to Aspen
Taxpayers should not have to pay for private political events like the one attended by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Tuesday outside Aspen, the sheriffs of Pitkin and Garfield counties said.
“It’s uncalled for,” said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario. “It’s abuse. It’s that political class attitude that thinks they’re entitled to consume public resources. It’s been a part of their life for so long.”
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo agreed, saying that he’d be happy to provide security to public events. But private fundraisers, like the one Clinton attended Tuesday that cost $2,700 a head to attend, should be paid for by the campaigns, he said.
“If she wants to go to the Red Onion and shake some hands, that’s complimentary,” DiSalvo said. “But that’s not happening.”
DiSalvo said he supplied two deputies to escort Clinton and her entourage from Rifle, where her plane landed, to Aspen and back to Rifle. Three other deputies were on hand at Tuesday’s fundraiser, held at the home of Soledad and Robert Hurst.
Robert Hurst is the former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs and the current managing director of Crestview Advisors, a New York-based investment firm.
Clinton flew from the Rifle-Garfield County Airport to events in Denver after the fundraiser in Aspen. Her motorcade traveled the Roaring Fork Valley, taking Midland Avenue through Glenwood Springs at about 4:30 p.m. to Interstate 70 en route to Rifle.
DiSalvo said it cost taxpayers about $5,000 for Clinton’s visit, which he admitted was not a lot of money.
“I’m trying to set a precedent here to get paid,” he said. “I have no mechanism to make them pay, and I’ll always help out the Secret Service. But I think the responsible thing to do is ask.”
And ask he did.
DiSalvo said he first tapped the Clinton campaign and was told they don’t pay for such things. Next he asked Robert Hurst, who was receptive to possibly paying the tab but was worried that it would be considered a donation and, therefore, against campaign finance laws. Robert Hurst said he’d check with the campaign.
Later Tuesday, DiSalvo said he received a call from a Clinton campaign staffer saying Hurst couldn’t pay because it might be a campaign finance violation. The staffer also said the campaign wouldn’t pay, he said, adding that Pitkin County citizens will have to pay for it.
DiSalvo said he drove up to the Hurst house to check it out Tuesday and saw a valet and a caterer set up to serve those who ponied up the $2,700, the maximum donation allowed by an individual to a candidate’s committee.
“This is just something I just have to get my head wrapped around,” a frustrated DiSalvo said. “And so do (Pitkin County) citizens.”
Vallario said the Secret Service called him four hours before Clinton’s plane landed in Rifle on Tuesday and wanted some help. Vallario said he assigned one deputy, but that was all he could do.
He said he has no issue with the Secret Service and will always help them out. However, “if it is the Secret Service’s responsibility to provide security, get more Secret Service agents.”
Colorado State Patrol also assisted in providing security for Clinton on Tuesday.
DiSalvo brought up Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Aspen in September, which he said cost the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office $8,000. He said he first asked to be reimbursed and was told no. Then local newspapers wrote a story and the answer changed to yes. Vallario also said he was compensated for Biden’s visit.
DiSalvo said he expects more presidential candidates to visit Aspen because there’s a lot of support for them here and people want to see them. But with campaigns starting earlier and earlier, the expenses for his department are going up, he said.
Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor said he supports DiSalvo, though he has never asked for reimbursement for a private political event for which he supplied officers because expenses haven’t been that significant. He said he hopes that campaigns would hire private security for private events.
“I think Joe is sensible to have a conversation and put it out there,” Pryor said.
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