Pence Religious Freedom

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom on Thursday at the U.S. State Department in Washington. He is expected to visit Aspen briefly on Monday for a private fundraiser.

It’s all very hush-hush: The email with the invitation asks recipients to “quietly spread the word.”

Even Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo doesn’t yet know who’s hosting Vice President Mike Pence’s upcoming Aspen visit — a private, $35,000-per-couple event set for Monday.

“We do have [security] requests that I can’t get into detail about,” he said. But beyond that, he knows very little, he emphasized.

Based on the duration of the trip — which Pitkin County Republican vice chair Bob Jenkins described as “in and out” — DiSalvo estimates that the additional security will cost taxpayers between $10,000 and $20,000.

It’s DiSalvo’s hope, however, that the final bill won’t be left with the taxpayers, since Pence won’t be making any public appearances.

“I’ve always had a longstanding policy that if the dignitaries and public officials don’t spend a minute mingling amongst the people they work for, they should foot the bill for this,” he said. “I understand you’re throwing a party; you’ve invited someone who’s going to cost the taxpayers anywhere between $10- and $20,000. I’ve always had good luck getting the hosts to pay, but right now, I don’t know who that is.”

That doesn’t mean DiSalvo begrudges the job, he stressed.

“Both myself and the other chiefs of police believe that the U.S. Secret Service is a fellow law enforcement agency, and we’re here to support other agencies so they can accomplish their missions,” he said.

Of course, on-the-ground security isn’t the only factor to Pence’s arrival. When he vacationed in Aspen in December 2017, the necessary flight restrictions reportedly cost Above It All Balloon Co. almost $10,000 in lost revenue, according to a Jan. 1, 2018, article in The Aspen Times. 

It’s not even clear to which airport Pence will be flying.

“I’d typically have heard about it by now, unless it’s on a tight need-to-know basis,” said Jodi Doney, terminal operations manager at Eagle County Regional Airport.

Similarly, Aspen-Pitkin County Airport controller Chris Padilla wasn’t familiar with the vice president’s arrival.

“Usually, the Secret Service is pretty locked down on that,” he said. Neither airport directors were available as of press time.

The event is sponsored by Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee by Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the Republican National Committee that already has reported more than $37 million in contributions to the Federal Election Commission.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, RNC co-chairman Tommy Hicks Jr. (who famously helped raised more than $2 million for President Trump’s first campaign in three days in Dallas) and National Finance Chairman Todd Ricketts are listed at the top of the invitation, as well.

Nobody from the RNC returned phone calls Thursday, but locally, Jenkins is looking forward to a policy-centric evening with national party representatives while simultaneously meeting fundraising goals.

“We’ve got a bunch of high-level donors that will be meeting with him,” he said. “Like all of these politicians, the primary job that they’re doing is raising money and setting policy. Really trying to determine what policies can be effective that people are looking for.”

While Jenkins didn’t quantify “a bunch” or name specific donors, Aspenites Tatnall and Roberta Hillman are likely to be there. Tatnall alone contributed more than $1 million to Republican causes in 2018, earning him the No. 6 spot on the Colorado Sun’s Top 10 donors list in the state.

So far in 2019, the couple has donated almost $100,000, mostly broken into candidate contributions of about $2,700 — the federal campaign contribution limit for any individual candidate per election.

Donors at Monday’s reception won’t need to be well-versed in campaign finance law; Trump Victory will allocate their $35,000 donations accordingly, as outlined in the fine print of the invitation.

Megan Tackett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com.