Records Sought for Luxury Vacations Taken by Obama, First Lady, and Biden

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) work of Judicial Watch has one purpose: to lay bare for the American people the inner-workings of government. Transparency is the antidote to corruption and FOIA law requires government officials to err on the side of public disclosure when it comes to government records.

The Obama administration selectively releases records that make the president look good, while shielding records that might cast the president or his administration in a negative light. Some records as seemingly innocuous as the cost of Obama family vacations are withheld.

In our view, American taxpayers have a right to know how much of their hard-earned money is used to support the leisure activities of the president and his family. I’ve surmised that the Obama administration’s view is information related to their luxury vacationing could harm the president’s carefully crafted image and so they keep these records shielded from public view.

Fortunately, Judicial Watch has been successful in forcing the Obama administration to come clean on Obama vacation records. We started all the way back in 2009, obtaining the Secret Service costs of the Obamas’ “date night” in New York City. (Click here for a full list of our disclosures.) And now we’re back at it again.

On June 21, 2013, JW filed a FOIA lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Secret Service to obtain information pertaining to the costs to taxpayers of Barack Obama’s February 2013 “boys’ weekend” in Palm Beach, Florida, and the simultaneous vacations of Michelle Obama and Joseph Biden in Aspen, Colorado.

Specifically, JW seeks access to the following records pursuant to its February 15, 2013, FOIA request:

  • Any and all records concerning, regarding or related to the expenditure of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or other services to President Obama and any companions during his February 2013 trip to Palm Beach, Florida;
  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the expenditure of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or other services to First Lady Michelle Obama and any companions during her February 2013 trip to Aspen, Colorado;
  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the expenditure of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or other services to Vice President Biden and any companions during his February 2013 trip to Aspen, Colorado.

By letter on March 18, 2013, the Secret Service acknowledged having received JW’s request on February 27, 2013. By law, it had until March 27, 2013, to notify JW of its determination, the reasons therefore, and the right to appeal any adverse determination. As of the date of the FOIA lawsuit, the Secret Service had failed either to comply or to indicate when a response will be forthcoming.

On February 15, 2013, in an article entitled, “Obama treats himself to boys’ weekend in Florida,” The Associated Press reported that the president “high-tailed it south after a speech Friday in Chicago on building a stronger middle class.” Reporting on Obama’s retreat to the West Palm Beach “well-trod stomping ground of the rich,” WhiteHouseDossier.com observed, “While unemployment stands at nearly eight percent, Obama is taking his second vacation of 2013. The year is only six weeks old.”

Also on February 15, 2013, the Washington Post reported that “First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia are spending their Presidents’ Day weekend in Aspen, Colo., where they’re expected to hit the ski slopes.” According the article, Michelle Obama and her daughters had spent the past two Presidents’ Day weekends in Aspen. The article reported that Vice President Biden and his family were also vacationing in the swanky ski resort town.

The JW suit is not the first time the organization has been forced to go to court to obtain information about taxpayer funding of lavish vacations for the president and his family. In October 2011, Judicial Watch obtained documents pertaining to a June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by Michelle Obama, her family and her staff to South Africa and Botswana.  According to expense records and manifests for that trip, the cost for flight and crew alone was $424,142.

In April 2012, Judicial Watch obtained documents through a FOIA lawsuit from the United States Air Force and the United States Secret Service detailing costs associated with what the press described as Michelle Obama’s “whirlwind tour of Spain” in August 2010. According to a Judicial Watch analysis, the trip, which included visits to coastal towns, shopping and a lunch date with the country’s King and Queen, cost the taxpayers at least $467,585.

These lavish personal vacations are symbolic of the total indifference this administration has to the out of control costs of government. Once again, the administration is, contrary to law, stonewalling simple requests for just how much their luxe lifestyles are costing American taxpayers.

And don’t expect press outlets to do any hard reporting on this controversy.

Breitbart’s Tony Lee points out the hypocrisy:

Eight months into President George W. Bush's second term, the Washington Post wrote that Bush's frequent trips to his Texas ranch symbolized "a lackadaisical approach to the world's most important day job" and gleefully noted that Bush was intent on setting the record for being on "vacation"— or away from Washington, D.C. – for the most number of days of any president.

But when President Barack Obama vacations in Hawaii, sets up a fantasy golf vacation for himself with Butch Harmon and Tiger Woods, averages more than a vacation a month in 2013 while purporting to be a man of the people and demanding the rich pay their fair share, and playing sequester politics by shutting down White House tours, the mainstream media is silent.

Even the Washington Post had to admit (as Lee notes), that President Bush spent the majority of his vacation time chopping wood or riding a mountain bike, and “did not make time for fun.” So why does the press remain silent on the Obama family vacations?

Nonetheless, JW will continue to do the job the media refuses to do, hold the administration to account for spending taxpayer dollars on Obama family vacations (and the travel of the Obama administration’s “top dogs” as well).

In case you are wondering, the Obama’s will have their sixth luxury vacation this year up in Martha’s Vineyard beginning August 10.  And, yes, we’ll be checking on the price to taxpayers for that one, too.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) work of Judicial Watch has one purpose: to lay bare for the American people the inner-workings of government. Transparency is the antidote to corruption and FOIA law requires government officials to err on the side of public disclosure when it comes to government records.

The Obama administration selectively releases records that make the president look good, while shielding records that might cast the president or his administration in a negative light. Some records as seemingly innocuous as the cost of Obama family vacations are withheld.

In our view, American taxpayers have a right to know how much of their hard-earned money is used to support the leisure activities of the president and his family. I’ve surmised that the Obama administration’s view is information related to their luxury vacationing could harm the president’s carefully crafted image and so they keep these records shielded from public view.

Fortunately, Judicial Watch has been successful in forcing the Obama administration to come clean on Obama vacation records. We started all the way back in 2009, obtaining the Secret Service costs of the Obamas’ “date night” in New York City. (Click here for a full list of our disclosures.) And now we’re back at it again.

On June 21, 2013, JW filed a FOIA lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Secret Service to obtain information pertaining to the costs to taxpayers of Barack Obama’s February 2013 “boys’ weekend” in Palm Beach, Florida, and the simultaneous vacations of Michelle Obama and Joseph Biden in Aspen, Colorado.

Specifically, JW seeks access to the following records pursuant to its February 15, 2013, FOIA request:

  • Any and all records concerning, regarding or related to the expenditure of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or other services to President Obama and any companions during his February 2013 trip to Palm Beach, Florida;
  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the expenditure of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or other services to First Lady Michelle Obama and any companions during her February 2013 trip to Aspen, Colorado;
  • Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the expenditure of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or other services to Vice President Biden and any companions during his February 2013 trip to Aspen, Colorado.

By letter on March 18, 2013, the Secret Service acknowledged having received JW’s request on February 27, 2013. By law, it had until March 27, 2013, to notify JW of its determination, the reasons therefore, and the right to appeal any adverse determination. As of the date of the FOIA lawsuit, the Secret Service had failed either to comply or to indicate when a response will be forthcoming.

On February 15, 2013, in an article entitled, “Obama treats himself to boys’ weekend in Florida,” The Associated Press reported that the president “high-tailed it south after a speech Friday in Chicago on building a stronger middle class.” Reporting on Obama’s retreat to the West Palm Beach “well-trod stomping ground of the rich,” WhiteHouseDossier.com observed, “While unemployment stands at nearly eight percent, Obama is taking his second vacation of 2013. The year is only six weeks old.”

Also on February 15, 2013, the Washington Post reported that “First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia are spending their Presidents’ Day weekend in Aspen, Colo., where they’re expected to hit the ski slopes.” According the article, Michelle Obama and her daughters had spent the past two Presidents’ Day weekends in Aspen. The article reported that Vice President Biden and his family were also vacationing in the swanky ski resort town.

The JW suit is not the first time the organization has been forced to go to court to obtain information about taxpayer funding of lavish vacations for the president and his family. In October 2011, Judicial Watch obtained documents pertaining to a June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by Michelle Obama, her family and her staff to South Africa and Botswana.  According to expense records and manifests for that trip, the cost for flight and crew alone was $424,142.

In April 2012, Judicial Watch obtained documents through a FOIA lawsuit from the United States Air Force and the United States Secret Service detailing costs associated with what the press described as Michelle Obama’s “whirlwind tour of Spain” in August 2010. According to a Judicial Watch analysis, the trip, which included visits to coastal towns, shopping and a lunch date with the country’s King and Queen, cost the taxpayers at least $467,585.

These lavish personal vacations are symbolic of the total indifference this administration has to the out of control costs of government. Once again, the administration is, contrary to law, stonewalling simple requests for just how much their luxe lifestyles are costing American taxpayers.

And don’t expect press outlets to do any hard reporting on this controversy.

Breitbart’s Tony Lee points out the hypocrisy:

Eight months into President George W. Bush's second term, the Washington Post wrote that Bush's frequent trips to his Texas ranch symbolized "a lackadaisical approach to the world's most important day job" and gleefully noted that Bush was intent on setting the record for being on "vacation"— or away from Washington, D.C. – for the most number of days of any president.

But when President Barack Obama vacations in Hawaii, sets up a fantasy golf vacation for himself with Butch Harmon and Tiger Woods, averages more than a vacation a month in 2013 while purporting to be a man of the people and demanding the

Even the Washington Post had to admit (as Lee notes), that President Bush spent the majority of his vacation time chopping wood or riding a mountain bike, and “did not make time for fun.” So why does the press remain silent on the Obama family vacations?

Nonetheless, JW will continue to do the job the media refuses to do, hold the administration to account for spending taxpayer dollars on Obama family vacations (and the travel of the Obama administration’s “top dogs” as well).

In case you are wondering, the Obama’s will have their sixth luxury vacation this year up in Martha’s Vineyard beginning August 10.  And, yes, we’ll be checking on the price to taxpayers for that one, too.


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