How much does the first family cost taxpayers for vacations? While it’s difficult to pin down precise figures, the Washington Examiner reports they have “spent tens of millions in tax dollars to vacation, and they still have two more years to go.”
Judicial Watch has compiled a list of vacations, fundraisers and other presidential trips and their accompanying expenses. A rough tally of this incomplete list comes to a minimum of $33,441,728.23.
It is routine for the government to cover a president’s travel expenses, which can include security, staff housing and transportation, communication, prepositioning of aircraft and other related expenditures. Some, however, are questioning the sheer cost of travel, and whether such costly vacations are necessary during a weak economy.
Prior to the presidential trip to sub-Saharan Africa during 2013, the Washington Post reported, “Hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents will be dispatched to secure facilities in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of an emergency. Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bullet¬proof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts, giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace, so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.”
Additionally, “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 …”
Judicial Watch reported the costs in lodging, entertainment and security for this one trip amounted to $2,189,727.60.
During the 2013 Christmas break in Oahu, presidential security essentially took over the entire island. In addition to concrete blockades and security patrols around Obama’s vacation quarters, his rental home was installed with bullet-proof glass, existing security systems were disabled, secure phone lines installed and his entourage brought in 20 to 30 vehicles. The Coast Guard enforced temporary exclusion zones in Kailua Bay, and armed Coast Guard dinghies patrolled the canal near the president’s rental home.
The 2013 17-day vacation in Hawaii for the president, his family, and staff and security was estimated to cost over $4 million.
Hawaii Reporter wrote, “Last year, because of emergency budget negotiations, the President made two roundtrips from Washington, D.C. to Hawaii, nearly doubling the cost of the vacation to more than $7.2 million. … Obama is popular in Hawaii, however, there are people critical of the cost to taxpayers and the inconvenience the President’s presence causes.”
The Washington Examiner Secrets notes, “While former President George W. Bush took more vacation days than the estimated 175 by the Obamas, critics slap Obama because most of Bush’s vacations were taken at his ranch in Texas, not the lavish digs he prefers in places like Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.”
CBS White House Reporter Mark Knoller, the unofficial presidential record keeper, calculates the president took 22 vacation trips spanning all or part of 160 days. The Washington Examiner Secrets adjusted those numbers to 38 by including “separate trips by the first lady and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, as well as quick trips like their May 30, 2009 date night to New York City and last year’s trip to New York to attend the wedding of former personal chef Sam Kass. What’s more, White House reporters told Secrets that some trips by the first lady and daughters are kept secret from the media, so a full accounting is difficult.”
The question of travel and vacation costs is drawing special attention this year, noted PolitiFact, “because the Obamas’ time away came during a period that included unrest in Ferguson, Mo., the launch of U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic extremist group ISIS, the beheading of American journalist James Foley by ISIS, and the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. The blizzard of challenges at a time when the president was on vacation – and often on the golf course – was not lost on many of his critics, as well as some of his supporters.”
“The Obamas are abusing the public trust and the taxpayers with unnecessary luxurious vacations and travel,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in releasing details of flight charges to Martha’s Vineyard and Hawaii. “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.”