WASHINGTON - President Obama traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina Tuesday to join presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail for the first time in the current election cycle.
Taxpayers are likely on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s and Clinton’s flight on Air Force One, although the White House doesn’t disclose the exact price tag.
According to a 2012 Congressional Research Service report, Air Force One costs about $200,000 an hour to fly.
Rules were put in place by the Reagan administration that taxpayers would pay for presidential travel. The rules also set a rate at which political guests on Air Force One are to pay back, but that rate is not public.
“We have no clue as to what the rules are when it comes to Air Force One and how they’re charged,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center.
Federal Elections Commission rules also come into play on this presidential trip because a presidential candidate is also on board.
The Clinton campaign is supposed to disclose how much they paid for the flight in campaign finance documents that will be released later this year.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that the Democratic National Committee will be paying for a portion of the costs in accordance with presidential travel rules.
McGehee said Congress does not maintain oversight of the White House rule-making arm and hasn’t held a hearing on presidential travel since the early 1990s.
“The problem with the current system is without transparency, there's no independent way of knowing that those rules are in fact being applied fairly,” McGehee said.
McGehee said that even though Air Force One is expensive, it allows the president to travel in the most secure setting, which is more important with today’s heightened terrorist threats.
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