Minneapolis’s liberal mayor, Jacob Frey, has demanded $530,000 in security costs for a Trump campaign rally this Thursday — 26 times the cost of security for a 2009 Obama rally. In violation of its contract, the Target Center threatened to cancel the rally unless the campaign forks over the cash.
“This is an outrageous abuse of power by a liberal mayor trying to deny the rights of his own city’s residents just because he hates the President,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “People want to hear from their President, and no mayor looking to beef up his resume for a run for higher office should stand in the way.”
College campuses have imposed outrageous security costs as a pretext to shut down controversial speakers, often conservatives. In 2018, the University of Wisconsin tried to charge its College Republicans club $17,000 in security fees for a rally. The College Republicans sued, claiming a violation of their First Amendment free speech rights, and the college settled, paying the club $122,500 in legal fees.
The Trump campaign alleged that Frey “is abusing the power of his office and attempting to extort President Trump’s re-election campaign by conjuring a phony and outlandish bill for security in an effort to block a scheduled Keep America Great rally. Democrat Mayor Frey is using the bogus security charges to pressure the Target Center, site of the contracted October 10, 2019 rally, into preventing Minnesota residents from exercising their First Amendment rights in support of President Trump.”
Frey did not charge the campaign directly. Instead, his government told the Target Center that it would be responsible for $530,000 in security and other costs related to the event. The Target Center attempted to pass the costs on to the campaign under threat of canceling the rally.
Jones Day, a law firm representing the Trump campaign, sent a demand letter to AEG Management, the company in charge of the Target Center.
“We are well aware of Mayor Frey’s vocal partisan opposition to President Trump and calls to disrupt the rally,” the lawyers wrote. “This last-minute squeeze seems to be nothing but a pretextual political effort with serious First Amendment ramifications.”
The case against AEG is so strong that the Jones Day letter is unintentionally hilarious.
Your letter of this morning on behalf of AEG threatening to terminate the rental contract at the last minute seems to rest on a representation by the City of Minneapolis that, without any apparent backup support, that “additional security and related costs” associated with the rally will be $530,000. You claim it is somehow the Campaign’s responsibility to “coordinate” these additional services and expenses, “including arrangements for payment to be made directly by [the Campaign] to the City, in advance of” the rally. If the Campaign does not, you assert, AEG will deem it a default or force majeure and cancel the contract.
Your position is clearly wrong under the plain wording of the contract. Neither the Campaign nor AEG is responsible for arranging or paying for rally-related security. Rather, the U.S. Secret Service – and the U.S. Secret Service alone – is “solely and directly” responsible for coordinating law enforcement services in connection with the rally. “As such, no law enforcement costs shall be coordinated by [AEG], charged through [AEG] to [the Campaign], or shall otherwise be reimbursable expenses in connection with the [contract].” The Campaign cannot be in breach of an obligation it does not owe to AEG. Yet AEG’s failure to deliver the Target Center on October 9 would be a breach of contract, and the Campaign will aggressively pursue all remedies available to it in law or equity – not to mention in the court of public opinion. (Emphasis added.)
Perhaps the worst aspect of the ridiculous extortion was the amount itself. Frey asked AEG to provide $530,000 for security. Yet police estimated that when President Obama spoke at the Target Center for a health care rally in 2009, security costs only ran $20,000. This Democrat mayor was trying to charge twenty-six times more for a Trump rally, likely thinking AEG will pass on the costs to the Trump campaign.
The Trump campaign is likely to prevail in this case, but the battle may derail the event on Thursday. If so, the campaign may sue for breach of contract.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.