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Cost of Obama rally nearly $80K for OSU

Cody Cousino / Lantern photographer

Nearly four weeks after President Barack Obama’s campaign rally on Ohio State’s Oval, the university is paying the price for hosting the event — literally.

The Democratic National Committee paid for many of the rally expenses, but OSU was left to pick up a tab of nearly $80,000.

OSU paid $35,000 for public safety and security operations at the event, which will come from the university’s general funds, said Liz Cook, assistant director for the Office of Media Relations.

Besides the university’s police department, Columbus Police and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office both paid out of pocket to help secure the event. The event cost the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department approximately $35,600 in overtime costs.

“The DNC doesn’t pay for that. They never have and never will, I don’t care what they say,” said Franklin County Chief Deputy Steve Martin on Oct. 18. “We just have to provide security. We do it every election year.”

OSU spent $16,084 for preparation and cleanup expenses. Officials said the university didn’t ramp up the number of employees working that day for the department of Facilities Operations and Development. An eight to 10 member crew took about four hours to clean up the mess left by an estimated crowd of 35,000.

Unlike other campus events, such as the upcoming Mirror Lake jump, “this clean-up did not require any major repair or restoration efforts on the part of FOD after the event,” said Mary Lynn Readey, associate vice president of FOD.

The university also paid $27,783 for transportation and parking services.

Despite the bill, and even though Obama failed to muster enough support to keep Democrats in power in Ohio, Undergraduate Student Government President Micah Kamrass said the event’s benefits outweigh the costs.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students to see the president and first lady of the United States,” he said.

The major expenses of the event being reimbursed by the DNC include $10,000 to rent the Oval and $4,600 to rent Hagerty and Hopkins halls. Hagerty Hall was used as a staging ground for the president, and Hopkins Hall was used as a filing location for national media traveling with the president, Cook said.

Additional costs for the event, such as set-up, tear-down and staging, were paid by the DNC. All of the political group’s expenditures for the event will be filed with the Federal Election Committee for public access Dec. 2, said Alec Gerlach, regional press secretary for the DNC.

The University of Wisconsin held an Obama campaign rally on campus Sept. 28 and was also reimbursed about $10,000 by the DNC for event space and basic university services, such as utilities and personnel, said John Lucas, a spokesman at the University of Wisconsin.

The school was also reimbursed $3,000 for bottled water, parking and portable restrooms. The Secret Service asked Wisconsin officials not to disclose security costs.

“There will always be costs to the university associated with bringing certain dignitaries to our campus,” Cook said of the visit to OSU. “The ability for Ohio State students to see a sitting president as part of their college experience is a historic moment and speaks volumes.” 

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