Trump Rally in Your City? Here’s How Your Tax Dollars Are Paying the Bill

A Trump rally in Phoenix, Arizona
President Donald Trump holds a rally in Phoenix. | Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Is your city hosting a Trump rally? Best prepare for a circus. The president has been holding post-election and post-inauguration rallies in cities across the country in an effort to get his supporters riled up. But if you’re not interested in the rally and aren’t a fan of Donald Trump you should know it’s still going to cost you.
His rally in Phoenix is the perfect example. While Trump was getting bashed for his legislative failures and inflammatory comments on Charlottesville, Virginia, he chose Phoenix — a big city in a red state — to commune with his supporters. These new rallies — the rallies he’s holding as president — are more expensive to the taxpayers. Federal funding is being used to protect and transport him, whereas before his campaign would take care of most of the expenses. But the cities where these rallies are being held are also getting dinged with big bills.
That means you, whether you like it or not, are paying for Trump’s rallies.

The Trump rally: An unprecedented phenomenon

rally in Phoenix
People attend the president’s rally in Phoenix. | Ralph Freso/Getty Images
  • Since his inauguration, Trump has held several rallies, including the one in Phoenix.

Trump is a different kind of president. And his post-election and post-inauguration rallies are definitely something new. While previous presidents might hold a rally to garner support for legislation or a candidate in a special election, Trump’s rallies seem to be for himself.
His supporters say the rallies are meant to “energize the base.” But they are rather unprecedented and really amount to little more than a safe space for the president to go off script.
The big question, though, is who pays for these things?

Who pays for it?

A dog is dressed in a sweater and campaign bumper sticker.
A dog is dressed in a sweater and campaign bumper sticker. | Mark Makela/Getty Images
  • A Trump rally is technically a campaign expense for his 2020 re-election bid.

This is what everyone wants to know, and the answer is more complicated than you’d expect. Trump is not actually allowed to use federal funds (taxpayer money) to pay for his rallies. So he pays for them from his 2020 re-election campaign coffers. According to CNN, he finished the 2016 campaign with $7.6 million left over and since has added millions more.
Interestingly, a lot of that money is actually getting funneled right back into the president’s personal businesses. Because Trump’s 2020 campaign pays for these rallies, it allows him discretion. That means he gets to pick what he pays for and whom he pays (in many cases, Trump properties). The rest? It gets offloaded onto the taxpayers.
So what are you, the taxpayer, on the hook for in terms of costs?

Taxpayers fund: Police and emergency services

Protesters line the streets
Protesters line the streets. | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
  • During the 2016¬†campaign, one rally in Lynden, Washington, cost taxpayers $155,000 in extra police, fire, and emergency services.

The most obvious and expensive way in which the taxpayers end up footing the bill for these rallies is through costs of police, fire, and emergency services. We can’t really put a dollar amount on how much these rallies cost because it varies greatly from place to place. A rally in Lynden, Washington, for example, is going to be a bargain compared to a rally in downtown Phoenix.
Some costs, though, aren’t as easy to calculate.

Taxpayers fund: Street closures and traffic control

police block a street
Police block a street. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Police and fire departments often must work on closing streets and providing traffic control. In some cases, certain departments in cities will take over these duties, too. For taxpayers, what it all adds up to is additional personnel costs, often at overtime rates. There’s not much you can do about it either. If the president wants to visit your city, he’s going to visit.
And you also need to take the economic costs associated with street closures and security into account. In Phoenix, for example, many businesses and government buildings closed early or didn’t open at all.
Don’t forget to tack on Secret Service costs.

Taxpayers fund: Secret Service protection

Members of the Secret Service
Members of the Secret Service patrol. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It’s not just local taxpayers who are on the hook for rally bills. It also takes federal money to protect and transport the president to and from venues. USA Today reported the Secret Service has eaten through its budget for 2017 already, in mid-August. And Trump’s fondness of holding rallies and visiting his personal properties is one of the reasons why. So in addition to local police, federal agents are also present at rallies on the taxpayer’s dime.
The president also needs a place to stay, and a guy like Trump isn’t going to give the taxpayers a break by staying at a Motel 6.

Taxpayers fund: Hospitality costs

The Mar-A-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida
The Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida | Gerardo Mora/Getty Images
  • A trip to Mar-a-Lago costs taxpayers $3 million on average.

Trump doesn’t always stay in the city in which he’s holding a rally, but it does happen. And, as we know, he likes to visit his personal properties at taxpayer expense. This includes places, such as Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, and Bedminster, his New Jersey country club.
These are expensive trips. In fact, the Secret Service has been charged — by Trump’s own companies — up to $60,000 for golf cart rentals. And in the case of the Phoenix rally, Trump stayed at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, which probably wasn’t cheap.
Finally, after a rally we have to pay people to clean up the aftermath.

Taxpayers fund: Cleanup costs

A street sweeper cleans the street in New Jersey, unrelated to any Trump event
A street sweeper cleans the street. | William Thomas Cain/Getty Images
  • The estimated per-person cost for a rally in Madison, Wisconsin, came out to $1.20 for everything from public safety to cleanup expenses.

Again, it’s hard — if not impossible — to calculate how much it costs to clean up after a Trump rally. Depending on the city, the venue, and whether there were any protests (and whether those protests turned violent), the costs can vary wildly.
But if you live in the host city, you can expect you’re going to be paying for it all. Local officials have sent bills to the president’s campaign for these costs. For example, the rally in Burlington, Vermont, during the campaign cost the city nearly $8,500, so Mayor Miro Weinberger shot Trump an invoice.
That’s not strictly for cleanup, but gives you an idea of the extra expenses cities and municipalities are dealing with. Also worth noting is Burlington is a city of around 43,000 people, and Phoenix, on the other hand, has 1.6 million. Expect cleanup costs to scale.