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Carney: Taxpayers Don't Pay For Obama's Campaign Travel

White House press secretary Jay Carney is hammered by ABC News' Jake Tapper to explain the difference between "official events" and "campaign events" when it comes to President Obama using federal money to fly around on Air Force One.

"What is your message to taxpayers when they see the president flying on Air Force One, doing one official event, one campaign event, flying back, knowing that in a lot of way taxpayers are paying for the president to campaign?" Tapper asked.

Carney says taxpayers are not paying for President Obama's campaign travel. Carney says the campaign and administration follow "the rules and regulations" when it comes to reimbursing the government.

"We go absolutely by the book in regard to the payments according to -- depending on which events are campaign or political and which are official," Carney explained.

However, Carney explained that there really is not much difference between President Obama talking at non-political events and addressing supporters at fundraisers.

"The suggestion that there is something wrong with the fact that the president says the same thing about what his vision is and what his policies are and what his beliefs are in front of official audiences, non-political audiences, he does in front of audiences which are his supporters, I think is kind of ridiculous," Carney told Tapper.

Carney told the White House press corps that when President Obama travels for a campaign event, "costs are apportioned accordingly."

Transcript below.

Jake Tapper, ABC News: We talked about this before in this room, about the president's trips to battleground states in which he has an event and then he has a fundraiser. And I know you've talked about more recently, when Ann asked you, about how the language in these different official vs. campaign events are quite similar. What is your message to taxpayers when they see the president flying on Air Force One, doing one official event, one campaign event, flying back, knowing that in a lot of way taxpayers are paying for the president to campaign?

Jay Carney: Well they're not. First of all, as in other administrations, including our immediate predecessors, as you know, we follow all the rules and regulations to ensure the DNC or other relevant political committee pays what is required for the President or First Lady to travel to political events. We go absolutely by the book in regard to the payments according to -- depending on which events are campaign or political and which are official.

The suggestion that there is something wrong with the fact that the president says the same thing about what his vision is and what his policies are and what his beliefs are in front of official audiences, non-political audiences, he does in front of audiences which are his supporters, I think is kind of ridiculous. In fact, I think it is a testament to his absolute consistency that it goes back to Ann's question, that yes, when he stands before supporters who are donating to his campaign, who may be wealthy, and says, 'it is only appropriate that the wealthiest among us do our fair share so that everybody gets a fair shot.' That's the same message when he's talking about the need to pass the Buffett Rule in the Senate. Totally -- I think that is absolutely the way it should be.

And again, with regard to the ways these -- every president who has been running for reelection in our lifetimes deals with these matters. It is by the book, very carefully done and appropriately done. And as you know, Jake, the president is the president 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and he has to fly on Air Force One. He has to have security and communications. There are elements of his job that are always with him regardless of the fact -- whether he's in a campaign event or an official event and, you know, costs are apportioned accordingly.


After this exchange, Carney is double-teamed by Tapper and Mark Knoller of CBS News to answer the question, which as Knoller reminds him, "should they be declared campaign events?"

Tapper: The two states he's visited the most this year are Florida and Ohio. That's just a coincidence?

Carney: Two very populous states, two very important states, and I'm sure he'll be back to those states as well as others. We were recently in Oklahoma. I'm an eternal optimist, but I am prepared to suggest that it's unlikely anyone would call that a battleground state. He gave a major speech in Nebraska. Again, I am prepared to suggest that is not a battleground state, though a portion of it was in 2008.

If you look at news organizations and all their maps about what states are up for grabs and say that the president can't go to those states, you're basically saying he can't go to half the country, and probably, far greater than half in terms of population.

Knoller: No one is saying he can't go to those states, Jay, the question is should they be declared campaign events?

Carney: So you're saying he cannot make official trips to a significant portion of the country, because you guys have declared them battleground states? Let me be clear, some of the states you've declared battleground states were never won by Democrats before 2008, or President Obama won by double-digits in 2008, but that's a battleground state.

It is impossible for him to appropriately do his job and travel around the country and talk with the American people, if he is guided by that kind of narrow view of what is a battleground state or a safe state for a Democrat or a safe state for a Republican. He is the president of all the people, of all the United States, and will travel accordingly.

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