News Outlets Send Letter To Romney Campaign Contesting Expenses

In an ongoing dispute, editors have informed American Express that they are contesting charges from the campaign trail.

Nine news outlets that covered the election sent a joint letter Monday to former Romney campaign officials to contest expenses billed to their reporters.

BuzzFeed, which is among the outlets that signed the letter, first reported on the dispute last week.

The outlets are requesting that the campaign provide a specific price breakdown for every event that cost them $200 or more. Until then, the letter reads, “some of our organizations have alerted American Express that we are contesting these charges.”

The letter was sent to former campaign manager Matt Rhoades, and senior advisers Kevin Madden, Stuart Stevens, Beth Myers, Eric Fehrnstrom, and Russ Schriefer, among others.

Here’s the letter:

To: Romney For President campaign
From: Members of the Romney press corps

To Whom It May Concern:

We’ve dealt with numerous campaigns over the past decades and understand that we pay a premium to travel with a candidate. But recent invoices from your campaign have raised serious questions about the charges you have forwarded to us for travel with Mitt Romney.

We are not quibbling over charter flights or hotel bills. We are focused on what appear to be exorbitant charges for food, filing centers/holds and ground transportation.

Some examples: $745 per person charged for a vice presidential debate viewing party on Oct. 11; $812 charged for a meal and a hold on Oct. 18; $461 for a meal and hold the next day; $345 for food and hold Oct. 30.

These costs far exceed typical expenses on the campaign trail. Also, it was clear to all present that the campaign’s paid staff frequently consumed the food and drinks ostensibly produced for the media. Were any of the costs of these events charged to the campaign itself, to cover the care and feeding of its staff? We would like to see how exactly the costs were determined for any specific event above $200, including the amounts you were charged and to whom you in turn assessed charges.

We have similar concerns about ground transportation costs, which at times exceeded $1,000 a day and were far higher per capita than what the campaign charged during the primaries—despite the larger numbers of reporters, photographers and television crews travelling and dividing the costs. One news organization contacted two of the bus agencies used by the campaign; it was clear from their reporting that the costs you charged us far outdistanced what you paid for the transportation.

In order to travel with the candidate, reporters were required to agree to costs in advance without knowing specifically what those costs would be. The trade-off in any such agreement is that the campaign will not exceed the normal bounds of propriety in charging news organizations. In this case, that is seriously in question.

Some of our organizations have alerted American Express that we are contesting these charges. We look forward to your response.

Cathleen Decker
Campaign 2012 Editor
Los Angeles Times

Jerry Seib
Washington Bureau Chief
The Wall Street Journal
Dow Jones Newswires

Richard Stevenson
Political Editor
New York Times

Paul Singer
Politics Editor
USA Today

David Millikin
Director for North America
Agence France-Presse

Kevin Merida
National Editor
Washington Post

Beth Fouhy
Senior Editor, Politics and National News
Yahoo

McKay Coppins
Political editor
BuzzFeed

Richard McGregor
Washington Bureau Chief
Financial Times

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