Michelle Obama talking about her African trip
The president’s two daughters, Sasha and Malia, were listed as “Senior Staff” on the manifest of a family safari to Africa, which cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars at a minimum, according to a government corruption fighter based in Washington.
The information comes from some of the documentation from the Obama family’s June 21-27 trip to South Africa and Botswana that was obtained under a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch.
Among the bits of information that have been released as a result of the court action were that the children were listed as “Senior Staff” on the manifests for the trip, and the costs of the military airplane used for the trip were in the range of $425,000 – all paid by taxpayers.
While Michelle Obama delivered some speeches on the trip, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the taxpayers’ money was wasted.
“This trip was as much an opportunity for the Obama family to go on a safari as it was a trip to conduct government business,” said Fitton. “This junket wasted tax dollars and the resources of our overextended military.
“No wonder we had to sue to pry loose this information.”
The organization previously uncovered documentation revealing that a “date night” for Barack and Michelle Obama in 2009 cost taxpayers more than $11,000 in Secret Service costs alone.
The organization, which investigates and fights government corruption, also earlier documented what appears to many to be the extravagant spending by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Records showed Pelosi cost taxpayers $101,000 for in-flight food and alcohol over a period in 2008 and 2009. At one point she instructed the Air Force to provide chocolate-covered strawberries for a snack, since it was her birthday.
“Dark chocolate preferred” was the order.
According to documents that were obtained under the legal action, taxpayers spent hundreds of dollars ($928.44) for “bulk food” for passengers aboard the flights and the calculated cost of the C-32 (a military configuration of a Boeing 757) was $424,142 (34.8 flight hours at more than $12,000 per hour).
The other expenses, meals off the plane, transportation, security, miscellaneous services and other costs – “Have yet to be disclosed,” Judicial Watch said.
The organization also reported, “The passenger manifests confirm the presence of Obama’s daughter’s, Malia and Sasha on the trip. The two girls are listed as ‘Senior Staff.’ The manifests also list Mrs. Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, and niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson, as well Mrs. Obama’s makeup and hairstylist (Carl Ray and Johnny Wright),” Judicial Watch said.
The “professed purpose” of the trip “was to encourage young people living in the two growing democracies to become involved in national affairs; and during her scheduled stops in Pretoria and Cape Town, South Africa and in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, the First Lady used the opportunity to speak on education, health and wellness issues,” the report said.
But the trip also included tourist events such as stops at landmarks and museums. There also was a private family safari at a South African game reserve for the Obamas.
The court case was launched just about the time The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom touted the $10 million in public money Michelle Obama has spent on her “vacations.”
“Branding her ‘disgusting’ and ‘a vacation junkie,’ [reports] say the 47-year-old mother-of-two has been indulging in five-star hotels, where she splashes out on expensive massages and alcohol,” the London paper said.
The report said Michelle Obama is believed to have taken 42 days of vacation in the last year, including a respite in Spain that cost $375,000 and a $2,000-a-night ski trip to Vail, Colo.
When the report came out, the family was on another vacation, at Blue Heron Farm on Martha’s Vineyard, where the rental fees are estimated at $50,000 a week.
The paper reported the situation was aggravated because the Obamas took separate airplanes to the Massachusetts retreat – even though they traveled the same day.
Also, the report cited figures from a Hawaii Reporter investigation into the Obamas’ trip to Hawaii last winter, where the costs were $63,000 to bring Michelle Obama to town ahead of the president, $38,000 for a beach property rental, $134,000 for staff members to stay in a nearby hotel and $251,000 in police overtime.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi
The White House Dossier report explained South African U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau confirmed the African trip was partly personal.
“She’s coming on this trip to talk about women’s development and youth development, and South Africa is a leader in that, not only on the continent but globally,” Trudeau said in the report. “A visit to South Africa is important for them as a family. She’ll be visiting many struggle-era landmarks, including the Apartheid Museum (and) the Hector Pieterson Memorial.”
Pelosi’s spending habits first came to light through Judicial Watch efforts when it was revealed taxpayers spent $101,000 for in-flight food and alcohol for her during that time period.
It was last year she requested that strawberries be provided for a special treat on her Air Force transport because it was her birthday. Not just any strawberries: chocolate-covered strawberries. “Dark chocolate preferred.”
Then there was a follow-up report from Judicial Watch that more taxpayer money – hundreds of thousands of dollars – were spent in the months before Pelosi handed the gavel over to Rep. John Boehner as Republicans took control of the House following the 2010 election.
Among the receipts: $130 from a Detroit store for popcorn, cheese puffs, Hershey’s milk chocolate kisses, peanuts, Snickers minis, Nilla wafers, ginger snaps, mixed nuts, dry roasted peanuts, M&M peanuts, Kraft caramels and crackers.
That order apparently was connected to a congressional delegation trip to Detroit that cost some $24,000 in air travel expenses plus another $10,000 in miscellaneous expenses.
The records, which are linked Judicial Watch’s website, include flight manifests, expense summaries, copies of receipts and congressional correspondence for Pelosi’s trips in 2010.
There’s not a grand total for the expenditures because of the nature of the reporting: Sometimes there were reimbursements listed for members of Pelosi’s family traveling with her, and it was unclear whether those reimbursements were paid.
The individual files of 50 to 100 pages of details are posted online in three parts:
The details include information on a May 6-10, 2010, trip to Afghanistan and Germany “to discuss issues of mutual interest in Qatar and Afghanistan, as well as conduct oversight on women’s issues (troops) in Afghanistan and to visit with U.S. troops and meet with government officials in Germany.”
Tab for the military travel? $204,135.
And Pelosi “made a personal request that the ‘maximum per diem allowance be made available at the enhanced rate of an additional $50.’”
Also uncovered were “numerous” trips by Pelosi between San Francisco and Andrews Air Force Base.
Part of the tab for alcoholic drinks on a congressional trip arranged by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
“Several of these trips included members of Speaker Pelosi’s family, including her husband, daughter, granddaughters and son-in-law.”
The Detroit trip? Costs were $24,336 for commercial air travel and another $10,046 in “expenses.”
The Pentagon also paid for military escorts for the trip, the report noted.
Earlier reports documented that she spent $2,100,744.59 in military travel costs in a single two-year period. That included the $101,429.14 taxpayers paid for “in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol.”
“For example, purchases for one Pelosi-led congressional delegation traveling from Washington, D.C., through Tel Aviv, Israel to Baghdad, Iraq, May 15-20, 2008, included: Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey’s Irish Crème, Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewars scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey, Corona beer and several bottles of wine,” Judicial Watch reported.