There always have been a few voices raising concerns over wildly lavish travel expenses for the Barack Obama, and sometimes his family, while they are not in residence in the people’s house in Washington; the Washington watchdog Judicial Watch, for example, has watched the dollars fly out since 2009.
And WND reported only months ago on estimates that the family’s African vacation tab was no less than $60 million, and possibly as high as $100 million. For what mostly was a vacation.
There have been reports that the Obamas spent more than $7 million for JUST travel for JUST three trips in late 2012 and early 2013, including more than $4 million to go to a Hawaiian vacation at Christmas, more than $2.1 million for a trip to California and back for Barack Obama to “dine with high-dollar fundraiser Jeffrey Katzenberg and appear on the ‘Tonight Show’ with Jay Leno” and nearly another $1.2 million for an “Obama family August vacation” to Martha’s Vineyard.”
Just this week there’s a report that Michelle Obama, her girls and her mom have been staying in a suite costing $8,350 per night in China, where a “well-placed hotel staffer” told the MailOnline that the staff is “fed up.”
“We can’t wait for this to be over, to tell you the truth,” the member of the concierge staff told the newspaper. “The first lady is gracious, and the girls are lovely.” But he said Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama’s mother, has been “barking at the staff.”
But exact totals for the Obamas’ travel expenses are impossible to obtain because the government, and others, simply decline to release the figures. The White House, for example, notes that security costs for the first family are not going to be released. The Secret Service says it’s figures are secret.
And officials with the Democratic National Committee, who are familiar with the costs because they are supposed to reimburse the government for the campaign use of government airplanes, also have declined to respond to WND requests for information.
Calls for more information
But more and more voices are joining the chorus that is calling for more information, or less spending, or both.
The vacation by Michelle Obama, her mother and her daughters to China, going on right now, has sparked the latest round of questions.
At the White House Dossier, reporter Keith Koffler noted the trip, which is going off without reporters in attendance, and with a dearth of official events for the Obamas.
“First Lady Michelle Obama plans to pack in an exciting week of sightseeing during what is definitely NOT a vacation excursion with her daughters, who are on spring break, and her mother, who likes to go on Michelle’s trips,” he wrote.
“The White House refuses to say how much it will cost you, according to the New York Times. Well, I can reveal it here:
He cites the expense of a couple of jets – “one of Michelle and one for her stuff” – which actually cost a couple thousand dollars – per minute of flight time.
In fact, it was revealed last month that Air Force One, which ferries President Obama to and from vacations and fundraisers, costs nearly $230,000 an hour to fly, although some smaller jets used occasionally for his family alone might be less expensive.
The China trip, where sightseeing is the main event most days, “is not a vacation. Please repeat to yourself. This is not a vacation,” Koffler wrote. “I’ll give you a moment.”
One commenter, identified anonymously as gracepmc, noted on the Dossier site, “Swinish excess. Undeserved entitlement. And an embarrassment to the nation. She fools no one. If this is a role model for African American women and families then we have arrived at a sad place.”
It was Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who during the heat of the 2012 campaign had filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office over the Obamas’ travel spending.
That followed the president’s multiple fundraiser trips on Air Force One, and his use of a telephone on the jet for fundraising calls.
17 states in 79 days
The National Journal’s George E. Condon Jr. reported at the time, however, “If Priebus hoped to stall the Democratic campaign, there is no sign of Obama tempering his use of Air Force One since Priebus ran to the GAO on April 25. In the 79 days since that complaint, the president has flown to 17 states. In only one of those states – Missouri, where the president gave a high school commencement address in Joplin on May 21 – was there no political flavor to the visit. In the others, fundraisers and openly partisan events dominated the schedule. And the itinerary closely matches the 2012 political map. He has gone to New York four times and three times each to closely contested Ohio and contribution-rich California and Illinois. He also has gone twice each to the politically pivotal states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada.”
The voices at MSNBC even warned Michelle Obama should “brace … for the latest round of nit-picking” when she stayed over from another family vacation in Hawaii for a 50th birthday celebration last winter.
“The Washington Times juxtaposed their coverage of Obama’s extra vacation relaxing on the beach – a present from her husband – with the polar vortex gripping much of the nation in sub-zero temperatures,” the report said. “The message seemed clear: this lady’s living it up while you’re bundling up.”
To the critics of the expense of having an extra jet trip to return her to Washington separately from her family, MSNBC said, “Watchdog.org crunched the numbers to determine that the first lady’s airfare could cost taxpayers nearly half a million dollars. While that’s a hefty pricetag for a flight from Hawaii, it’s barely a rounding error in terms of the full federal budget.”
“A plethora of Republican lawmakers have already take (sic) a break from their August recess to criticize Obama for a taking (sic) an expensive on-week (sic) vacation while millions of Americans are struggling financially. The president pays for food and souvenirs himself, while it’s the taxpayers that eat the cost of Air Force One and the travel expenses of the Secret Service.”
Judicial Watch reported just the Air Force One costs for the trip were nearly $1.2 million. The Secret Service costs were, well, secret. Nobody asked what souvenirs Obama bought for himself.
A few dollar figures:
The dollar figures that are available have been compiled by Judicial Watch, including $98,135.79 for Obama’s President’s Day 2013 golf trip, $81,523.64 for Michelle Obama’s President’s Day 2013 ski trip, $1,092,844.01 for Michelle Obama’s Africa trip, $115,500.87 for Malia Obama’s spring break in Mexico, $83,182.99 for Michelle Obama’s President’s Day 2012 ski trip, $467,585 for Michelle Obama’s trip to Spain, $467,175 for the Obamas’ Copenhagen Olympic bid, and $11,648.17 for the Obama’s to go to New York City for a date night.
Among the details of the expenses that are known, according to JW:
The 2012-2013 Christmas vacation cost taxpayers – for travel alone – nearly $4.1 million. Those expenses for Obama’s trip to be on the Leno show, $2.1 million, and the Martha’s Vineyard trip, $1.1 million.
“The Obamas are abusing the public trust and the taxpayers with unnecessary luxurious vacations and travel,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton has said. “These staggering costs show why these documents were covered up and we had to sue in federal court to get them. Another transparency fail for the Obama gang.”
The Journal reports that the fees for political trips by Air Force One used to be based on the equivalent of first-class airfare, but starting in 2010, a new Federal Election Commission rule calls for reimbursement of what it would cost to charter a Boeing 737 – on a formula based on the number of travelers.
But the report notes, “The exact numbers are impossible to get.”
A court action was filed to determine whether there was “any indication of official business conducted by Mrs. Obama while she was in the country.”
The lavish travel hasn’t always been only by the Obamas. WND reported numerous times on then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s commuting in an Air Force jet to her California home.
At one point it was documented that she 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
“Dark chocolate preferred” was the order.
And The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom has highlighted the $10 million in public money Michelle Obama has spent on her “vacations.”
That report said the family vacation in Hawaii over Christmas 2011 cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
Among some of the categories that made up the estimated more than $4.1 million for the family vacation were: $3.2 million in flight time to carry the Obamas back and forth, a Marine contingent for security at $258,000, $21,600 for each of seven houses rented for 18 days for security officers to be housed, another hotel bill for $72,000, overtime for local police of $250,000 and others.
Sasha and Malia Obama even have been listed as “Senior Staff” when they travel at taxpayer expense. That happened on the family’s African safari.
In a WND assessment of Obama’s travel spending on a few months back, it was uncovered that the Obamas scheduled nearly 4,000 “room-nights” for their stop in Johannesburg and another $2 million for car rentals there.
The report noted when information has been available, the administration has provided information on an inconsistent basis.
In some cases, federal entities such as the State Department, which arranges the logistics of executive branch travel, have thwarted efforts to discover more about the government’s accommodations, transportation and related expenses.
Indeed, WND has been waiting more than a year and a half for the State Department to reveal details of a mysterious stay at the super-luxurious Hotel Hessischer Hof in Frankfurt, Germany.
Although State on Nov. 17, 2011, had uploaded to the FedBizOpps database a contract awarded to the hotel for $52,000, it released no details explaining the contract. State acknowledged receiving the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request, but otherwise has remained silent on the matter.
It remains unclear who may have stayed at the luxury hotel, as the award date is not necessarily indicative of when the government actually used the facility.
Vice President Joseph Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, traveled to Frankfurt just months prior to the notice. However, there is no record of where they stayed as they cheered for Team USA during the Women’s World Cup Final.