When President Obama and his family members travel anywhere these days, it is best to grab hold of one’s wallet. This is just the latest lesson Judicial Watch has pulled out of documents received in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests directed at the U.S. Air Force.
Since the beginning of his administration, the president and his family have become notorious for lavish political junkets and extravagant vacations, subsidized by tax dollars and often under the fraudulent guise of official business. According to records obtained by Judicial Watch through FOIA requests and subsequent lawsuits, the Obamas and Bidens have spent more than $40 million in taxpayer-provided funds on trips since 2009, beginning with the Obamas’ much-publicized New York City “date night” in 2009 up through the president’s most frequent golf outings and the first lady’s Aspen ski jaunts. And that number is just the tip of the iceberg. The full costs, many of which remain hidden, likely approach $1 billion.
Judicial Watch has obtained records that show President Obama’s April 22, 2015, Earth Day trip to give a global warming speech in the Florida Everglades cost taxpayers $866,615.40 in flight expenses alone. Though billed as an opportunity for the president to talk about climate change, press reports show he used the speech to attack potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates. The records came in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed April 23, 2015.
According to the Air Force documents, the president’s flight to and from Miami, Fla., totaled 4.2 hours. The Air Force documents also detail that Air Force One costs $206,377 per hour to operate, meaning the flight expenses for the trip totaled $866,615.40. Leaving aside the irony of using Air Force One for an unnecessary jaunt to discuss global warming, these documents show that taxpayers are being gouged for President Obama’s abuse of the perks of office. They should not be forced to foot the bill for his continued savaging of political opponents.
(The White House schedule for April 22 reports the president departed Washington at 10:20 a.m., gave his speech at 3:55 p.m., quickly departed Florida two hours later, and was back at the White House by 8:10 p.m.)
In his Saturday, April 18, weekly radio address, Obama said he was going to the Everglades to “talk about the way that climate change threatens our economy.” Press reports following the speech, however, suggested that he used the occasion to launch hard-hitting attacks on his political opponents, particularly those vying for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and those leading the opposition to his global warming agenda.
According to the New York Times, “… his trip was also intended to sharpen a political contrast with Republicans in ways that he believes will help the Democratic Party in the next presidential contest, especially in states like Florida, where the impact of climate change is already being felt in profound ways.”
Reuters reported, “He mocked Republican Senator Jim Inhofe [a leading opponent of the Obama global warming agenda] for throwing a snowball on the Senate floor during Washington’s cold winter.”
The Secret Service has yet to respond to Judicial Watch’s April 2015 FOIA request asking for documents about the costs of providing the president security on the Miami trip, which likely will bring the trip cost into the millions of dollars.
As offensive as these latest junkets are, they are not actually the worst.
The most lavish expenditure on record to date was the first lady’s Africa trip and a single 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 1,500-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.
A look back into recent presidential history shows just how much the current administration’s operations have gone off the rails.
Midway through the sixth year of his presidency, Obama has attended more fundraisers than George W. Bush attended in his entire presidency, including 32 fundraising visits to the high-income environs of Los Angeles County since his 2009 inauguration. Republicans Bush and Ronald Reagan each had eight visits to LA County in their first six years in office. George H.W. Bush visited there 10 times. The only outlier other than Obama’s 32 visits belongs to fellow Democrat Bill Clinton, who attended 36 fundraisers in the county over the course of his two terms as president.
Whoever the next president is, Democrat or Republican, it is necessary to reform the abusive costs of the imperial presidency.