Newly obtained records released Thursday by Judicial Watch revealed that lodging, security and “entertainment” for the Obamas’ entourage during their trip last year to Africa cost taxpayers nearly $2.2 million.
“The Obamas clearly either do not understand the value of a dollar – or understand it all too well when someone else is picking up the tab,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“Keep in mind that this outrageously lavish excursion came at the very same time that the president was shutting down White House tours and blaming it on the sequester. As one congressional critic noted at the time, the White House could have 1,350 weeks of tours for the cost of the Obama family’s trip to Africa.”
Documents previously obtained by Judicial Watch showed the flight expenses for the family’s African outing totaled more than $8.1 million.
The most recent documents revealed the lodging and entertainment costs. The paperwork from the Department of Homeland Security showed ranks of Secret Service officers on the sub-Saharan trip from June 27 to July 3, 2013, spent $2,189,727.60 in lodging, entertainment and security.
The government watchdog filed a Freedom of Information Act document request at the conclusion of the trip, and the information recently was released.
Judicial Watch said Secret Service hotel bills totaled $953,788.18, and even though the Obama family “Tanzania safari” ended up being canceled, Secret Service preparations for the excursion still totaled $11,525.75.
The report on the spending stated: “From June 27 to July 3, 2013, the Obamas visited three countries in Africa – Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. According to reports in the Washington Post in the days leading up to the trip, ‘One hundred [Secret Service] agents are needed as ‘post-standers’ – to man security checkpoints and borders around the president – in each of the first three cities he visits. Sixty-five are needed to meet up with Obama in Dar es Salaam. … In addition, 80 to 100 additional agents will be flown in to work rotating shifts, with round-the-clock coverage, for Obama’s and his family’s security details.'”
In March, Judicial Watch said just the flights by the Air Force for the Obamas’ trip cost $8.1 million, at $228,000 per hour for nearly 36 hours.
Judicial Watch noted: “According to numerous press accounts, the total cost of the Obama family trip was estimated to have cost between $60 million and $100 million.”
Obama has established a reputation for lavish travel spending.
Earlier this month, the Washington Examiner reported two golf outings for Obama – to Key Largo, Fla., and to Palm Springs, Calif. – cost a total of $2.9 million.
There also was a recent report that the White House incurred taxpayer expenses of $7.9 million to fly the Obamas to Northern Ireland for a summit that included an extra $251,000 for Michelle Obama and their two daughters to go sightseeing in Dublin.
The entourage required the use of the “spacious Princess Grace Suite at the five-star Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.” Among the miscellaneous costs was $114,000 for a “fleet” of vehicles for the sightseeing as well as $3,370 for a using a copier.
WND has reported many such expenses over the years.
There were reports the Obamas spent more than $7 million for just three trips in late 2012 and early 2013, including more than $4 million for a Hawaii vacation at Christmas, more than $2.1 million for a trip to California for 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.
When Michelle Obama and her girls went to China earlier this year, along with Michelle Obama’s mother, they stayed in a suite costing $8,350 per night, where a “well-placed hotel staffer” told the London Daily Mail that the staff was “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, had been “barking at the staff.”
Exact totals for the Obamas’ travel expenses are impossible to obtain because the government and others 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 its 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 a chorus calling for more information and less spending.
The vacation by Michelle Obama, her mother and her daughters to China sparked a round of questions.
At the White House Dossier, reporter Keith Koffler noted the trip went 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: A lot!!”
He cited the expense of a couple of jets – “one for Michelle and one for her stuff” – which cost a couple thousand dollars per minute of flight time.
Last month in was reported Air Force One, which ferries President Obama to and from vacations and fundraisers, costs more than $228,000 an hour to fly.
Travel with ‘political flavor’
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, during the heat of the 2012 campaign filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office over the Obamas’ travel spending.
The complaint followed the president’s fundraiser trips on Air Force One and his use of a telephone on the jet for fundraising calls.
The National Journal’s George E. Condon Jr. reported at the time, however, that there was no evidence Priebus’ complaint had any effect.
“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,” he wrote.
Condon pointed out that the itinerary closely matched the 2012 political map, with frequent travel to closely contested states and contribution-rich California and Illinois.
MSNBC.com’s Morgan Whitaker warned Michelle Obama should “brace … for the latest round of nit-picking” when she stayed in Hawaii for a 50th birthday celebration last winter after the rest of the family returned to Washington.
“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.”
Whitaker said to critics: “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.”
In The Capital reported concerns about the Obamas’ 2013 Martha’s Vineyard vacation.
“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 said just the Air Force One costs for the trip were nearly $1.2 million.
A few dollar figures
The new dollar figures compiled by Judicial Watch include: $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, $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.
The 2012-2013 Christmas vacation cost taxpayers – for travel alone – nearly $4.1 million. The expenses for Obama’s trip to be on the Leno show were $2.1 million, and the Martha’s Vineyard trip cost $1.1 million.
“The Obamas are abusing the public trust and the taxpayers with unnecessary luxurious vacations and travel,” 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, using a formula based on the number of travelers.
But the report notes that 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 been limited to 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
The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom has highlighted “$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.
A WND assessment in November of Obama’s travel spending found 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 it 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.