During her time in the White House, Michelle Obama has most definitely demonstrated a penchant for taking expensive vacations with her family and friends – at taxpayers’ expense. Judicial Watch previously obtained documents regarding a June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by Mrs. Obama, her family and her staff to South Africaand Botswana. Through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) we obtained the mission expense records and passenger manifests for the Africa trip, which yielded a cost of $424,142 for the flight and crew alone. Other expenses, such as off-flight food, transportation, security, etc. were not included.
About the best you can say regarding the Africa trip is that it at least had the pretense of official business. The First Lady scheduled a few speeches on health and wellness in between tourist trips to historic landmarks, museums, shops and a non-working visit with Nelson Mandela. Not so with the First Lady’s jaunt to Spain the previous year. Judicial Watch has been investigating this vacation as well, but we’ve been stonewalled in our efforts to get the records. We asked for the documents last year (in August) but the Obama administration hasn’t bothered to produce one document. As a result, we were forced to file a lawsuit on March 5, 2012, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the United States Air Force.
Specifically, we’re after the following records pursuant to our August 25, 2011, FOIA request:
I. All records concerning mission taskings of First Lady Michelle Obama’s August 2010 trip to Spain;
II. All records concerning transportation costs for Mrs. Obama’s August 2010 trip to Spain; and
III. All passenger manifests (DD-2131) for Mrs. Obama’s August 2010 trip to Spain.
Per usual, we’re getting the runaround.
The U.S. Air Force acknowledged receiving Judicial Watch’s request on August 30, 2011, and was required by law to respond by October 13, 2011, at the latest. However, at the time of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, the Air Force has neither released responsive documents nor indicated why these documents should be withheld. The Air Force has also failed to indicate when a response will be forthcoming.
So why would the Obama Defense Department refuse to turn over basic records about the cost of a trip by the First Lady? I suspect it has something to do with damage control. In this age of out-of-control government spending, the specific details of taxpayer-funded luxury jaunts to the Costa del Sol in Spain would be politically toxic to the Obama administration. (I’m sure Mrs. Obama paid her family’s own hotel bill, but we’d like to know the cost to the taxpayer of getting her there and back!)
Here’s what we know about this trip so far.
In August 2010, Michelle Obama and one of her daughters embarked on what thepress described as a “whirlwind tour of Spain,” which included visits to coastal towns, shopping and a lunch date with the country’s King and Queen. The Obamas reportedly stayed in the luxury Hotel Villa Padierna during the vacation. As reported by The New York Times, also accompanying Mrs. Obama on the trip were “two friends and four of their daughters, as well as a couple of aides and a couple of advance staff members.”
Mrs. Obama sustained heavy criticism for taking the vacation at the same time the U.S. reported a loss of 131,000 jobs. While the White House claims the Obamas “paid their own way” for the trip, taxpayers were responsible for certain costs, including Mrs. Obama’s security.
But while this lavish trip may be a source of embarrassment for the Obamas, this is not a sufficient reason to stonewall the release of records. Evidently, American taxpayers were stuck with a sizable bill so Mrs. Obama could tour around Spain with her family and friends. This administration, as a supposed steward of taxpayer dollars, has an obligation to disclose the full costs of the Obama family’s luxury trip.
Instead, we get, as is typical, utter contempt for the federal government’s core transparency law: FOIA.