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Obama for America campaign paid $200K up front for Ohio State visit

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

When President Barack Obama visited the Oval on Ohio State’s campus Oct. 9, the Obama for America campaign had to pay the nearly $200,000 bill up front.
Although the president was on campus and hosted by the OSU College Democrats, neither the university or the organization had to pay for the event.
“Costs (for the event) are far out of any student organization’s price (budget),” said Mallory Kimble, president of OSU College Democrats, who requested that Obama visit campus.
In an email to The Lantern, Amy Murray, assistant director of media relations at OSU, said the OFA campaign paid for the visit and, “the group (OFA) paid $97,000 to rent out the Oval and related costs such as parking. In addition, they also had to put down a $100,000 cash deposit for any damages and carry a significant insurance policy.”
The insurance policy is returnable after a review process, Murray said. No final determination has been made as to whether the money will be refunded.
Representatives from OFA did not return requests for spending and budgets regarding the president’s visit to the Oval.
Although the OSU College Democrats did not pay for the event, Kimble said it was responsible for distributing fliers and advertising for the event Oct. 5.
Murray explained OFA had to comply with typical university standards for hosting an event. According to the “Rules Governing the Use of Outdoor Space at The Ohio State University,” a registered student organization, faculty or staff member, university department or organization must sponsor an event.
The OSU College Republicans also had a tent set up on the Oval prior to Obama’s speech.
Niraj Antani, communications director of OSU College Republicans, said the group had a tent with “a small show of support for Gov. (Mitt) Romney and Congressman (Paul) Ryan” set up in the middle of the Oval.
Antani said the Secret Service asked them to take down the tent about an hour before the doors to the Oval opened.
“The university decided that they would shut down the entire Oval and not let tuition-paying students in,” Antani said.
Although OSU closed the Oval for the event, Murray said in her email, “The university carefully selected a site that would have the least amount of impact to our academic programs and the university community.”
According to the rules governing the use of outdoor space at OSU, the Oval is considered the university’s “front lawn” and normally the Long Walk, the brick path that begins at College Road and ends at the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, is to stay unobstructed for student use. OFA had to pay a $100,000 deposit to use the Main Oval space, according to the contract signed by OFA and OSU officials.
The cost of the event seemed high to some students, but many said they were unconcerned because it was coming from campaign funding.
“Unfortunately, there is so much money in politics. The campaign paid for it so I don’t really care,” said Mario Gutierrez, a second-year in geological science and music education.
If the visit had been paid for by the public, Gutierrez said he might have felt differently about the event’s price tag. Gutierrez did not get to go to the event because of a chemistry lab but said he did want to attend the speech.
Allie Mooney, a second-year in public affairs, said she got to the speech at about 3:30 p.m.
Mooney said regardless of which candidate you support, “it was cool (Obama) wanted to come (to OSU).”
“The state of Ohio has and continues to play an important role in presidential elections,” Murray said. “Ohio State has long been a popular destination for political candidates and legislative leaders to visit.”
Obama’s visit to the Oval was his fifth stop at OSU in the past two years. He kicked off his re-election campaign at the Schottenstein Center on May 5, where his campaign paid $75,000 to rent the building for the day. His last visit to campus was in March, when he spoke at the RPAC about energy, but because that was an official White House visit and unrelated to his campaign, the university did not charge the president for his visit. However, the White House supplied much of the sound and audio equipment for the event.
According to previous Lantern articles, Obama’s November 2010 visit to the Oval cost the university $80,000, even though most rally expenses were covered by The Democratic National Committee.
Republican presidential nominee Romney was in Central Ohio last week when he visited Delaware, Ohio, about 30 minutes north of Columbus, on Oct. 10, and Lancaster, Ohio, about 40 minutes from Columbus, Friday.
A televised, town hall-style debate between Obama and Romney was held Tuesday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The debate yielded mixed reactions from analysts following the debate but many said Obama won.
Results of a Wednesday seven-day rolling Gallup poll of registered voters have Romney leading with 48 percent over Obama with 46 percent, with less than three weeks to the Nov. 6 presidential election.

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