The National Park Service will divert nearly $2.5 million in money set aside for improvements to pay for Donald Trump’s Fourth of July event. According to a report from The Washington Post, money obtained through park entrance charges and recreation fees primarily intended to be used to improve the nation’s parks will be shifted to pay for the event, which will feature a speech, tanks, and a military plane flyover on the National Mall.
According to the post, two individuals familiar with the situation say that the celebration at the Mall will cost far more than the $2.5 million that taxpayers are funding through national parks. In contrast, the usual Independence Day celebration at the Mall costs about $2 million. So far, the Trump administration has declined to say how much the event will cost overall.
The cost isn’t the only thing raising eyebrows. The White House is sending out VIP tickets to prominent Republican donors and political appointees, which has caused concern among critics that the event is becoming more political, rather than a celebration of the country’s independence from Britain. Others are concerned that taxpayers are essentially footing the bill, at the expense of the under-funded national parks, to pay for what they see as essentially a campaign rally.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico said. “No ticketed political event should be paid for with taxpayer dollars.”
One anonymous RNC official defended the ticketing.
“It’s standard practice for the RNC to receive a small number of tickets to events just as the DNC did under Democrat Presidents,” the official said. “This is routine for events like the White House Christmas Open Houses, Garden Tours in spring and fall, etc.”
Brendan Fischer, who works with the Campaign Legal Center, called the move a way to signal to people that the Trump administration is favoring the “wealthy and well-connected” by limiting public access to a national monument in favor of well-positioned Republicans.
The administration is diverting ~$2.5M in nat'l park fee revenue to pay for Trump’s Independence Day spectacle on the National Mall. Siphoning off desperately needed $$ from our national parks to pay for this is reckless & a breach of the public’s trust. https://t.co/YSQd7hHu2M
— National Parks Conservation Association (@NPCA) July 3, 2019
Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, criticized Trump’s use of national park funding. Because entrance fees are typically used to pay for road and bridge repair and habitat restoration, the parks are losing out on nearly 5 percent of its budget for less profitable parks.
“This is a breach of trust with the public,” she said. “The public pays parks fees to fix national parks and for educational programs, not the president’s parade.”