(Host) When First Lady Laura Bush came to Vermont last week, her visit was purely political.
For that reason, it couldn’t be charged to taxpayers.
As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the campaign of congressional candidate Martha Rainville was happy to pick up the sizeable tab.
(Zind) Orchestrating a visit by a First Lady is like promoting a concert. There are plenty of up-front expenses: booking a venue, hiring a sound crew, arranging for transportation. The bills add up and you hope to make enough money to pay them and then some.
The total bill for Laura Bush’s brief visit to Vermont: about $30,000. Nathan Rice is campaign manager for Martha Rainville.
(Rice) “Certainly the majority of the expenses are the First Lady’s travel expenses, Secret Service expenses. Then there’s certainly anything that goes into the logistics for an event in terms of renting out the space, picking up costs for food and beverages, invitations, postage.”
(Zind) Vermonters packed a room in Essex, paying $200 apiece to see the First Lady make a nine-minute speech. A small group paid $5,000 to meet her privately.
The event brought in about $130,000. Once the Rainville campaign pays the bills for the visit, the net proceeds will likely be around $100,000.
Then the campaign will have to check the name of each person who paid to attend the event to make sure any previous donation that person made to the campaign doesn’t put them over the legal limit. Any donations that fall into that category will be passed on to the Vermont Republican Committee.
Whatever the amount finally deposited in the Rainville coffers, it will be the largest single infusion of money into her campaign. Rice says he’s hoping for more visits by high profile Republicans.
(Rice) “The stakes are incredibly high in this race, for obvious reasons. So certainly I would expect other big name people to come to town.”
(Zind) According to federal filings, Rainville raised just under $334,000 as of the end of March. The race for the open U.S. House seat is expected to be the most expensive congressional race in Vermont history.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.