Secret Service buys two $1.1 million buses for Emperor Obama's Midwest campaign trip
Secret Service using new $1.1 million buses for Obama Midwest trip
By Associated Press, Published: August 15
WASHINGTON ó President Barack Obama is traveling the Midwest on a new $1.1 million bus purchased by the Secret Service, an impenetrable-looking conveyance the size of a cross-country Greyhound, painted all in black, with dark tinted windows and flashing red and blue lights.
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan emphasized that the bus wasnít purchased solely for the president and would be used for other dignitaries in the future. He said the agency has not previously had buses in its fleet and was overdue to get some since itís had to protect politicians traveling by bus for decades.
In the past, the service has had to lease buses and retrofit them for that purpose.
Donovan said two buses were purchased and one is being used by Obama as he travels through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. Both will be used by other officeholders and candidates.
Donovan declined to comment on the busesí design or capability. He said the decision to purchase the buses was made about a year ago but had been under discussion longer, and that the money was taken from a fund for transportation and armored vehicles.
$1.1M Secret Service Bus Makes Debut On Obamaís Midwest Tour
Ryan J. Reilly | August 15, 2011, 9:30PM
With President Barack Obama embarking on his mid-August tour of the midwest on Monday, the public got its first look at one of two $1.1 million armored buses that, as TPM first reported back in April, were recently purchased by the Secret Service and will be used on the campaign trail.
The bus is "an impenetrable-looking conveyance the size of a cross-country Greyhound, painted all in black, with dark tinted windows and flashing red and blue lights," according to a Associated Press description.
But don't worry, Republicans: you get one too. An identical bus was purchased by the Secret Service and will be made available to the eventual Republican presidential candidate, presumably once the politician is afforded Secret Service protection. The vehicles wouldn't be exclusive to the campaign trail -- they'll also be useful for when the Secret Service transports dignitaries, according to the agency.
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told TPM the agency wasn't getting into the details of the security and communications features of the vehicles. But he said that like the presidential limousine known as "The Beast," the buses meet the standards for transporting the commander-in-chief.
Donovan told TPM back in April that the agency was "overdue for having this type of protective asset in our fleet" and that designing their own vehicle "really gave us a level of security which we don't get when we lease a bus."
U.S. Secret Service gets 2 new buses ahead of Obama tour
By Mark Knoller
Updated: 6:15 p.m. ET
The U.S. Secret Service has two new buses in its fleet for President Obama to use on his three-day, three-state Midwestern bus trip that kicked off Monday.
CBS News has learned the buses were purchased in recent months at a cost of just under $1.1-million each and will serve as part of the fleet of vehicles the Service uses for all of its protectees.
In the past, the Secret Service would lease buses as needed and outfit them with the security and communications equipment.
"We have not been satisfied with the level of protection offered by leased buses," said a Secret Service official.
Last year, the Secret Service placed an order for two buses with the Hemphill Brothers Coach Company of Whites Creek, Tennessee at a combined cost of $2,191,960.
The buses have lavish interiors and are usually leased to transport stars of the entertainment industry.
The company's website says its clients have included Beyonce, Cher, Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Jack Nicholson, and Pope Benedict.
Mr. Obama will travel through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois on the tour. He has four town hall meetings planned, as well as a forum on rural economic issues.
Although the bus trip has the feel of a campaign swing, the White House is billing it as "official." That means taxpayers pick up all the related costs. When Mr. Obama ventures out on political trips, his campaign or the Democratic National Committee pay a small portion of the cost of presidential travel, as required by the Federal Elections Commission.
But spokesman Jay Carney says "the president is not engaged in a primary election and he is doing what presidents do, which is go out in the country and engage with the American people, have discussions about the economy and other policy issues."
Aboard Air Force One en route to the start of the bus trip in St. Paul, Minn., Carney told reporters that "to suggest that any time the president leaves Washington it's a political trip would mean that presidents could never leave unless they were physically campaigning on their own behalf, and he's not; he's out here doing his job and meeting with the American people."
But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called a news conference in Minnesota this morning to raise objections to the taxpayer-funded nature of the president's trip.