Newt Gingrich is losing his Secret Service protection a few days shy of his announcement officially ending his campaign, NBC News reported Thursday night. That comes a week after the conservative Taxpayers Protection Alliance called for Gingrich to surrender Secret Service protection last week, saying his campaign didn't warrant the cost.
Neither the Secret Service nor the Gingrich campaign would confirm the move, but Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said Thursday night that it was the Obama administration’s decision when to pull the security.
The Homeland Security secretary officially authorizes the beginning or ending of Secret Service protection for particular candidates, but former Secret Service agent Andrew O'Connell says anyone — other than the president — can call off that protection at any time.
"The candidate can always tell the Secret Service, 'Thanks, but no thanks. We sign off on releasing you even though you believe it's in my best interest. We don't need you anymore.'"
Candidates have wielded that power to delay protection. Senator John McCain made headlines in 2008 for forgoing secret service protection even after he was the presumptive Republican nominee, calling it "an inconvenience” and “a waste of taxpayer money. "
The Secret Service won't disclose how much candidate protection costs, but in 2008, the agency's director told Congress that it averaged around $38,000 a day. Candidate protection costs from the 2008 campaign ran over budget by $5 million, leading the Government Accountability Office to call for better management of candidate protection costs.