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Nine news organizations have written to the remnants of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign contesting inflated expenses billed for reporters traveling with the campaign. Referring to examples such as $812 per reporter for a meal and holding space or $745 per reporter for a vice presidential debate watching party, the letter charges that:
These costs far exceed typical expenses on the campaign trail. Also, it was clear to all present that the campaign’s paid staff frequently consumed the food and drinks ostensibly produced for the media. Were any of the costs of these events charged to the campaign itself, to cover the care and feeding of its staff? We would like to see how exactly the costs were determined for any specific event above $200, including the amounts you were charged and to whom you in turn assessed charges.
We have similar concerns about ground transportation costs, which at times exceeded $1,000 a day and were far higher per capita than what the campaign charged during the primaries--despite the larger numbers of reporters, photographers and television crews travelling and dividing the costs. One news organization contacted two of the bus agencies used by the campaign; it was clear from their reporting that the costs you charged us far outdistanced what you paid for the transportation.
Incompetence by the Romney campaign had been a leading theory to explain the inflated charges, with more meals and more buses than required being provided because of poor communication and management. But if the Romney campaign was actually charging news outlets more for buses than it was paying the bus companies, that suggests something more sinister.
It's the eternal question about Republican screw-ups, really: Malicious or incompetent or both? While the expenses billed to media companies is small in the broader context of presidential politics, it's a reminder of how disastrous a Romney presidency would have been. Also, count this as one more piece of evidence that the former community organizer ran a tighter, more efficient organization than the successful businessman.
Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 11:06 AM PST.