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Change (We Can Believe in) or Business (as Usual)?

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Thursday afternoon, President Obama graced the residents of New York with a visit. There was no diplomatic purpose for his trip to the city. He met with no head of state. He visited no federal program. He made no public appearance and made no public speech. Rather, he stopped in for cocktails with 50 of his best friends, and dinner with 15 others. To rub shoulders with the Man, each of his supporters (including dinner hosts Anna Wintour and Harvey Weinstein) reportedly paid the legal maximum of $35,800. The total take for the President and the Democratic National Committee? $2,327,000.

The president flew into New York on Air Force One. Mr. Obama was then transported via helicopter and motorcade to the Ritz Carlton downtown for cocktails. Access was restricted to the public (and hotel guests) for an extended period. From the Ritz, he was transported via motorcade to a townhouse in the West Village for dinner, and finally via motorcade and helicopter back to Air Force One for the trip back to Washington.

The streets in the West Village neighborhood were cleared for a full day for the president's visit. No less than 75 New York City policemen and untold numbers of K-9 and Secret Service patrols secured the block around the townhouse. Similar numbers were no doubt present in the wider radius as well as at the Ritz downtown. While impossible to verify with precision, easily 300 or 400 city and federal personnel were engaged in security operations for his trip. Equally importantly, thousands of local residents and visitors were inconvenienced as a result of traffic and access restrictions.

In theory, the DNC is required to 're-reimburse' the federal government for a portion of the expenses of Air Force One for purely political trips, but the figures aren't publicly disclosed. All in, however, it is hard to imagine that the total cost to the taxpayer of Obama's trip doesn't come close to the amount the president raised for the DNC and his re-election campaign. One must ask why New York and US taxpayers should ever pay any expenses for politicians on fund-raising junkets.

And call me a cynic, but I don't think I'm going out on a limb by suggesting that while some of the attendees might have been true believers, at least a few were paying the $35,800 entry fee for access to promote their special interest agendas.

Enough is enough. It's just another in a long line of losing propositions for the taxpayer. Perhaps in these extraordinary times it may seem like campaign finance reform is far down the list of priorities, but an argument can be made its at the root of our government's evils.

"Change we can believe in" is sounding more and more like "business as usual" every day.