Dems Demand Pence Refund Taxpayers For ‘Costly Publicity Stunt’ At NFL Game

Michael Conroy/AP

A group of Democratic representatives asked Vice President Mike Pence to repay taxpayers for a trip he took to an Indianapolis Colts game that he walked out of when players knelt for the national anthem, a move that President Trump essentially confirmed was a preplanned stunt.

Spearheaded by Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Ted Lieu (D-CA), the Democrats claim the “costly publicity stunt” was “employed by the Trump-Pence reelection campaign for the purpose of soliciting donations” because the campaign quickly used the scene to rally its base.

Additionally, members of Pence’s press pool were advised to stay in their cars and were told there might be an “early departure,” the letter said.

“This strongly suggests that your truncated visit was not a spontaneous act of protest — as you have sought to portray it — but was instead a premeditated act conducted solely for the purpose of generating publicity. In fact, President Trump confirmed as much when he posted on Twitter that he told you beforehand to stage this protest if any players kneeled,” according to the letter, which was signed by Gallego, Lieu, as well as Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Brendan Boyle (D-PA).

Requesting documents about his travel and communications between Pence and the Trump-Pence campaign, the members of Congress said the American people “deserve to know” how many taxpayer dollars were spent on the trip and whether the campaign knew about it ahead of time, “at the very least.”

But, in order to “preserve the integrity” of Pence’s office, the Democrats also urged Pence to reimburse the Department of the Treasury for the full cost of the trip.

“The health of the democracy requires that taxpayer funding is not used for campaign purposes,” they wrote. “Again, given the appearance of serious impropriety in this matter, we request that you instruct the Trump-Pence campaign to immediately reimburse the Treasury for the full cost of your wasteful, unnecessary trip to Indianapolis.” 

Pence’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment.

Read the letter below:

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