Minneapolis mayor seeks to disallow political rallies that cost city money

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said Tuesday he'll seek a legislative change to block future political rallies that cost the city money after a President Donald Trump campaign event set the city back more than $500,000 last month.

Any such move would undoubtedly raise First Amendment challenges, but Frey called it "unfair" that Minneapolis would have to bear the entire cost of securing political events.

Minneapolis incurred $542,733 for securing Trump's Oct. 10 rally at Target Center, Frey said. The city has been unsuccessful in getting the campaign to reimburse those costs, and the mayor said he would also seek repayment from Target Center's operator, AEG.

"We need to be pursuing that with AEG, with the Trump campaign, with Secret Service," he told reporters during a news conference at City Hall. "The city should not be solely and exclusively accountable for every single one of these expenditures associated with a campaign rally."

Among the total cost were: $392,139 in Minneapolis Police overtime, $48,000 for barricades placed around Target Center, and personnel costs within the city departments of public works, regulatory services, and 911 center.

Frey said only AEG can seek reimbursement from a group that rents Target Center. The mayor said he was leaving the door open to suing AEG to force the arena operator itself to reimburse the city. 

But Frey also said he wanted Minneapolis City Council to change the terms of the city's contract with AEG. Under the change that Frey advocated Tuesday, AEG would be forced to do a cost-benefit analysis comparing the city's potential security costs to the sales and entertainment tax revenue that any future event would generate.

"If the potential costs are far greater than the potential revenues, well, maybe that’s not an event we’d be looking to have," Frey said. 

Frey said he did not know how much sales and entertainment tax revenue was generated by Trump rally attendees at the October event.

Federal law does not require campaigns to reimburse local governments for security costs. Frequently, campaigns -- including Trump's -- do not.

The Trump campaign, which refused to prepay the city’s previous estimate of $530,000 before the rally, referred questions to the U.S. Secret Service.

The October rally drew 20,000 people downtown. The event was mostly peaceful, though skirmishes broke out on the street outside Target Center, and one man was ultimately charged with felony assault for throwing a punch.

There is no evidence that Minneapolis has ever pursued this level of reimbursement from any political candidate before. Frey, a Democrat, denied charges that partisanship was behind his push, and said any new policy would be applied without regard for political party.

Bernie Sanders rally

As Minneapolis was tallying its security costs for the Trump event, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' campaign agreed to a $40,000 rental fee with the University of Minnesota for a Nov. 3 rally at Williams Arena.

The fee for Sanders' rally at the university is less than 8 percent of cost that Minneapolis incurred for the Trump event downtown.

The Sanders campaign publicly promised to pay the agreed-upon cost for the Williams Arena rally.

Sanders' campaign has not yet done so but has several weeks before the bill is due, said Jake Ricker, a university spokesman.