Atherton Revolts Over Cost Of Obama Visit, Targets Donors

ATHERTON (KPIX 5) – A community on the Peninsula may take the unprecedented action of slapping a lien against two homeowners who hosted an April fundraiser for President Barack Obama that cost the town $8,000 in security and cleanup costs.

The Town of Atherton has been unable to recoup the money from the Democratic National Committee or Secret Service.

“If the town incurs a cost that rightly should belong to somebody else, we’re going to pursue that,” Atherton Town Manager George Rodericks told KPIX 5.

The town sent invoices to the White House, Democratic National Committee, the Secret Service and two people who own the homes where Mr. Obama raised more than $3 million for Democrats. So far, the town has not received a cent.

“If we were to hold, say, a wedding here, and have to close off streets, we would expect the people that were hosting the wedding to pay it and I think the taxpayers would also ask for that,” Councilman Bill Widmer said.

Widmer and Rodericks want the homeowners who held the fundraisers to reimburse Atherton for the cost of security, road blocks, traffic control and cleanup.

Or else, Rodericks, said, “We could follow a lien process of some kind, hold a public hearing, invite them to come, process it as a lien against their property and collect it via the property tax.”

For years, local governments rarely questioned paying for police and public works services when a president came to raise money. But some wealthier locales, such as Atherton, get more visits than most.

Town leaders, struggling with shrinking budgets, said they are fed up paying the penalty for being an ATM for politicians.

“When people are paying $32,400 to have a luncheon with the president,” Widmer said, “part of that money could go to pay for police protection that’s required to keep everybody safe.”

Other Bay Area cities have paid even more for presidential fundraising trips: San Francisco police racked up more than $60,000 in overtime in April and Oakland reportedly ended up with a $300,000 bill last year.

The city of Palo Alto, where Obama will attend a private fundraiser Thursday without making any public appearances, has no plans to ask for reimbursement.

“This is something we routinely plan for and our local law enforcement budgets it as part of our normal operating procedures,” Claudia Keith, a spokeswoman for the city of Palo Alto, told KPIX 5 last week.

Neither the Democratic National Committee, the Secret Service, nor the homeowners responded to KPIX 5’s requests for comment.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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