Donald Trump’s visit to the University of Iowa campus earlier this week cost the Republican presidential candidate $11,765 — covering rental of the Field House, security provisions, and other incidentals like food and coffee.
That total is the most any candidate this campaign season to date has paid for an event on any of the state’s public university campuses, according to data requested by The Gazette. For comparison, Republican rival Carly Fiorina visited the UI-associated University Club on the same day as Trump’s visit to campus.
She spent $408.
Trump also paid $4,200 for an event at Iowa State University on Jan. 19 and $8,998 to visit University of Northern Iowa on Jan. 12 — representing the most expensive candidate visits on those respective campuses.
“He has been drawing large crowds, so that’s to be expected,” said Janelle Smithson, chair of the UI College Republicans.
In total, six candidates or candidate representatives this campaign season have spent nearly $23,000 to date on visits to the University of Iowa — with several more planning campus events over the weekend in advance of Monday’s caucus.
Five candidates have spent a combined $27,272 to date on visits to UNI. Cost totals for candidate visits to Iowa State weren’t available because some were hosted by private individuals or a fraternity, in one case.
The fees candidates are charged for their visits include use of the facilities, security provisions, technology, maintenance, and other expenses.
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A Board of Regents policy on campus speakers and programs leaves it up to each university to establish procedures around candidate visits — including how to invite candidates, promote them, and cater to them.
University of Iowa requires visits from candidates seeking non-university elected office to be sponsored by a student organization, while Iowa State and UNI allow candidates to rent space and hold campaign events without student sponsorship — as long as facilities are available.
“We treat them as we do any external customer that is interested in renting our meeting space,” said UNI spokesman Scott Ketelsen. “They rent the space from us. They have their event and move on to the next stop. It’s very straightforward.”
Cary Covington, UI political science professor, said he thinks the University of Iowa policy is designed to enable the university to turn away groups and events not tied to its educational purposes.
“I think it is an important filter for a state-sponsored university to have in place,” Covington said. “It’s hard to come up with anything other than a ‘take all comers’ policy without it.”
Smithson, a UI senior, said she appreciates the university’s requirement for student sponsorship because it guarantees student involvement.
Candidates wanting to come to campus typically reach out to the student groups, which then begin to plan and pull together logistics for a visit. The groups advertise candidate appearances via social media, listserv and word-of-mouth, Smithson said.
“It’s nice in a sense because the student groups get to work with the campaigns, and they can learn how the processes work and take part in it,” Smithson said. “They are not shoved aside.”
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Although Iowa State lets candidates visit campus and hold events at their expense and without student group sponsorships, its Lectures Program annually invites candidates to participate in a “Presidential Caucus Series,” which is sponsored by the university’s Committee on Lectures, College Republicans, College Democrats, and Student Government.
That series provides participating candidates with minimal publicity and a room, and it charges a nominal fee — $30 for use of technology and $100 for publicity. If campaigns want to bring in extra equipment or hold their event at another campus venue, they must cover the additional charges.
Iowa State has been hosting the caucus series since 1987, and this year’s lineup included Republican hopefuls Fiorina, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, and John Kasich, and Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.
Other candidates — like Trump, Republican candidate Marco Rubio, and Democratic contender Hillary Clinton — visited campus but not through the series, often due to scheduling conflicts, according to Pat Miller, director of ISU’s Lecture Program.
“Our job on the Committee on Lectures is to try to bring as many candidates as possible,” she said. “But what we are finding is the national campaigns for each candidate have them on such tight-packed schedules that they will have just an hour … and we won’t have space.”
That, according to Miller, has been among the differences she’s noticed in this year’s campaign.
“I’ve taken to calling it the Pizza Ranch-coffee shop campaign, because they’re scheduling them into small venues as much as they are larger venues,” she said. “And there are so many of them.”