City Officials Ponder Billing Campaigns for Costs

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City officials are considering billing the campaigns of President Bush (search) and Sen. John Kerry (search) for more than $200,000 to cover police department costs for visits by the candidates, their running mates and spouses

The proposal endorsed Thursday by a Common Council committee goes before the full city council for a vote Nov. 23.

"We're not talking about Abe Lincoln stepping off a train and giving a stump speech and heading out of town," said Alderman Bob Donovan, sponsor of the measure. "These are huge, huge extravaganzas."

Alderman Terry Witkowski criticized the measure, saying the state — one of the battlegrounds of the presidential campaign — and city were pleased to receive the attention. It was wrong, he argued, to "retroactively say, 'We're sorry we had the spotlight; we have a bill for you.'"

The Milwaukee Police Department tallied 8,276 labor hours for 28 visits, costing the city nearly $215,000. Forty-three percent of the hours, or $92,302 worth, are attributed to Democratic visits, with the other $122,354 in costs are linked to the Bush side.

Four years ago, Waukesha and Madison both unsuccessfully sought reimbursement from Democrat Al Gore's campaign for costs associated with political rallies. This year, at least three cities, Cleveland; La Crosse, Wis.; and York, Pa., have had their requests ignored.

"We can't obligate them to pay, but we ought to send them a message," Milwaukee Alderman Jim Bohl said.