Air Obama: Costs of Obama's African Vacation and Presidential Golf Trips

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. Last week, Judicial Watch released more information from the government about Air Obama.

First up: the controversial Obama family vacation to Africa. This week we released lodging, security, and entertainment expense records from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, revealing that the Secret Service entourage accompanying President Obama and his family during their trip to sub-Saharan Africa from June 27 to July 3, 2013, incurred $2,189,727.60 in lodging, entertainment, and security expenses alone. The records came in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed on July 3, 2013, with the U.S. Secret Service. 

According to the Department of Homeland Security documents:

  • Though the Obama family Tanzania safari was canceled shortly before the Obama’s departure for Africa, Secret Service preparations for the safari still totaled $11,525.75

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 2014, Judicial Watch released flight expense records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force, revealing that the Obama family also incurred flight expenses of $8,104,224 for flights to, from, and around Africa during the June-July 2013 trip. The trip totaled 35.5 hours at $228,288 an hour. We got the records through a FOIA request. According to numerous press accounts, the total cost of the Obama family trip was estimated to have cost between $60 million and $100 million.

Now, it is important to 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.”

And what about the costs associated with the president’s near once-a-week golf outings?

As of March 7, 2014, President Barack Obama had played an astounding 163 round of golf. Predictably, as investigative reporter Emily Miller pointed out, “The president is clearly aware of the optics of his disappearing onto a golf course, so he decreases the outings in election years. He played 27 times in 2009, 31 times in 2010, 34 times in 2011 but only 19 times in 2012.” And, in 2013, with his last election safely behind him, he increased his total to a personal record-setting 46.

While Judicial Watch hasn’t kept a running total on the number of Obama’s golf outings, it has kept tabs on what the president’s passion for the links has cost the American people. And on April 30, 2014, we released records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing that President Obama’s February 2014 Palm Springs, California and March 2014 Key Largo, Florida golf outings cost the taxpayers $2,952,278 for flight expenses alone.

Here are the details of JW’s discovery:

  • According to the Department of Air Force documents, the flights to and from Palm Springs for the February 17 – 20, 2014 trip totaled 9.8 hours at $210,877 an hour, which comes to a total of $2,066,594.60 in flight expenses. The records came in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information request filed on February 18, 2014.
  • Also according to the Department of Air Force documents, the total cost for flights to and from Key Largo, Florida for the March 7 – 9 trip totaled 4.2 hours at $210,877, which comes to a total of $885,683.40 for flight expenses. The records came in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act request filed on March 10, 2014.

Though the administration claimed the Presidents’ Day weekend trip to California was an effort to highlight the state’s severe water drought, the White House official schedule showed the president spent just four hours at three drought-related events on the afternoon of Friday, February 14.

The president then spent much of the next three days playing golf at some of Coachella Valley, California’s, most exclusive golf courses – which, according to Fox News, “consume roughly 17 percent of all water there, and one quarter of the water pumped out of the region’s at-risk groundwater aquifer.” Each course uses nearly 1 million gallons of water a day.

From March 7–9, the first family spent spring break at Key Largo, Florida’s, exclusive Ocean Reef Club, where members must have a minimum net worth of $35 million to join. According to its website, “the Club boasts two championship 18-hole courses, a rarity in the Florida Keys… a salon and spa, more than a dozen restaurants, a 175-slip marina, a private airport, and so much more.” Ironically, the costly Spring Break vacation took place on the heels of Obama’s State of the Union Address in which he focused on income inequality.

There is no doubt the Obamas continually abuse the perks of the president’s office. And it is particularly laughable that Obama has chosen to take not one but two luxury vacations back-to-back while inveighing against “income equality.” While too many Americans are struggling to make ends meet and fund a debt-ridden government, President Obama is laughing all the way to the 18th hole.

According to records we obtained through FOIA requests and subsequent lawsuits, the Obamas and Bidens have spent more than $40 million taxpayer dollars on trips since 2009, beginning with the Obamas’ much-publicized New York City “date night” in 2009 up through the president’s most recent Palm Springs and Key Largo golf outings.

The most lavish expenditure so far on record was the aforementioned Africa trip and a Honolulu vacation, which cost taxpayers $15,885,585.30 in flight expenses alone. The single largest expense for accommodations was for Michelle Obama’s side-trip to Dublin, Ireland, during the 2013 G-8 conference in Belfast, when she and her entourage booked 30 rooms at the five-star Shelbourne Hotel, with the first lady staying in the 1500-square-foot Princess Grace suite at a cost of $3,500 a night. The total cost to taxpayers for the Obamas’ Ireland trip was $7,921,638.66.


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