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Secret Service overspent on Campaign '08

By Ed O'Keefe

It cost more than expected to protect Barack Obama and John McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Eye Opener

Here's an interesting postscript to Campaign '08: The U.S. Secret Service spent $5.1 million more than anticipated in late 2009 while protecting the Obama and McCain campaigns and presidential inauguration events, according to government auditors. The agency tasked with protecting the president, other political figures and their families also kept poor records of the costs.

A Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday doesn't question the need to spend more money, but raised concerns that the Secret Service didn't tell lawmakers about the cost overruns until five months after the presidential inauguration.

It cost $41 million in salaries and expenses to protect the Obama and McCain campaigns and President-Elect Obama in fiscal 2009, according to the report. The government's fiscal year begins Oct. 1, meaning the money paid for the final six weeks of the 2008 campaign, the presidential transition and some inaugural events. The presidential protection budget -- which funds protection for current and former presidents and other political figures -- topped $705.9 million last fiscal year.

The Secret Service covered the extra $5.1 million by transferring money from its other accounts. But it didn't tell Congressional appropriators until June 2009 -- in violation of budget rules that require the agency to tell lawmakers at least 15 days before transferring more than $5 million in budgeted funds to cover other expenses, GAO said.

The agency spent more than $110 million in fiscal 2008 for campaign protection and $65 million during the 2004 campaign. As colleague Spencer S. Hsu noted in 2007, then-candidate Barack Obama received presidential protection in May of that year, much sooner than previous candidates, and the early protection strained an already cash-strapped agency. In anticipation of a busy reelection campaign, the Secret Service already wants $14 million to get ready for 2012.

Before it gets the money GAO recommends that the Homeland Security Department keep better financial records for the Secret Service and find a better way to inform Congress of potential cost overruns. DHS agreed with the recommendations and said it plans to keep a scorecard of how well the Secret Service changes its budget practices.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | July 1, 2010; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Oversight  
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This appears to be another example of either incompetence or arrogance, ie...."we didn't know or we don't care", and I'm more inclined to accept the latter. The principal test of GAO and DHS will be to monitor the USSS for compliance, and should there be continued such abuses, award the top managers with a severe spanking or their way out the door. Do you think they are the only such violators of their budgets??

Posted by: jxx2 | July 1, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Andrew Sullivan has protested the Secret Service protection given Trig Palin because "as we all know, HE'S NOT REALLY SARAH PALIN'S SON -- I DEMAND TO SEE HIS BIRTH CERTIFICATE!!!!!"

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 1, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

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