A Hastings native who has been active in several presidential campaigns has written a book critical of perks presidents take for granted; especially critical of how President Obama has used the office to campaign for re-election.
Robert Keith Gray’s book is entitled Presidential Perks Gone Royal. Gray, a member of the Eisenhower Administration and active in a number of presidential campaigns, says it took a lot of research to uncover just how generous presidential perks can be.
“You can’t call Washington and say, ‘How much did the president spend this year, how much did he spend this day, this month?’” Gray tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview. “There’s no central gathering place.”
Gray says all presidents have taken advantage of the perks offered the office, some he has observed up close during work with administrations and presidential political campaigns. Gray became active in campaigns as diverse as Barry Goldwater’s and Eugene McCarthy’s. He served as National Communications Director of the Reagan/Bush campaign and Co-Chairman of Reagan’s 1981 Presidential Inaugural. He founded Gray and Company, a public affairs firm.
The book though, according to Gray, took an unexpected turn during his research. Gray says he and his two assistants discovered that President Obama took greater advantage of the royal perks of office than any previous president, sparking the subtitle: Your Taxes Are Being Used for Obama’s Re-election.
Perhaps the greatest perk available to the president is having Air Force One at his beck and call. Gray contends Obama takes full advantage for trips related more to his re-election campaign than to his presidency.
“For example, this last month when the forest fires were burning out in Colorado Springs, the president had three fundraisers in that area. He made the three fundraisers and then he stopped in for a few minutes to talk to some of the fire victims and, of course, wrote off the whole trip as an official trip,” according to Gray. “It’s not right. It’s not fair to the tax system and it’s not fair to the democratic process.”
Gray suggests the only way to curtail the spending from the Oval Office is to appoint a special commission to oversee spending in the White House.
“And the president doesn’t ask anybody for permission,” Gray says. “If he wants to take his wife to New York for a holiday or take Air Force One off to Ohio as this president did to swear in some police officers or to Ireland to visit a pub named in his honor, it doesn’t matter. Nobody controls him. He doesn’t have to answer to anybody.”
Gray will sign books at Prairie Books in Hastings from 3 to 5pm Friday afternoon.
AUDIO: Brent Martin interviews Robert Gray about his book, Presidential Perks Gone Royal [10:40]