Presidential Expenses

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Most of these expenditures were apparently ordered by the Secret Service, which, under existing law, has the power to request relatively extensive “improvements” on property in order to protect the President’s life. The implementation of that law in the past produced only limited costs. The first governmental spending in this area was at President Eisenhower’s Gettysburg farm, where the Secret Service added three guard posts to an already existing fence. The Kennedy family itself paid for the fence surrounding the compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, although the government later added guard posts and paid for a trailer to house Secret Service communications personnel. Some $250,000 was spent on the airfield at Lyndon Johnson’s ranch in Texas, but perhaps half that sum purchased “foul weather” landing devices removed when he left office.

While Mr. Nixon has argued that he has done nothing wrong in permitting work to be done on his homes, certain questions of propriety remain unanswered. Seen from another perspective, however, San Clemente and Key Biscayne are the logical extension of tendencies already well established in other areas of Presidential spending, where the President has been led to expect luxury and comfort unparalleled in our history. Perhaps the issue will only be resolved when Congress and the public finally determine how regal a modern President’s life-style should be.

Just as this issue went to press, Mr. Nixon acknowledged underpayment by over $400,000 of income taxes for his first term —in part by failing to report as taxable income public funds expended for private travel and for home improvements .