For the last week and a half, President Barack Obama has been in Hawaii on his ‘traditional’ Christmas vacation with his family, playing golf with friends and eating shave ice on family outings.
It might take a couple of years before taxpayers know the precise cost of this year’s Christmas vacation, but if it’s similar to previous years, such as 2013, it will cost more than $8 million.
While all private vacations are paid for in part out of the first family’s own money, taxpayers cover the bulk of the flight cost and all of the cost for Secret Service detail. The most recent data shows that the 2013 Obama family Christmas vacation in Hawaii cost taxpayers $8.09 million.
Almost two years after a records request, the Secret Service on Monday provided government watchdog group Judicial Watch information showing the total cost of security for the 17-day trip in December 2013 that went until January 2014 cost $316,698.
“The $317,000 in Secret Service expenses are only the tip of the iceberg for the true cost of Obama’s 2013 vacation in Hawaii, which has now skyrocketed to $8,098,060,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “It is nice to know that Obama’s ‘tradition’ of Christmas vacations in Hawaii comes courtesy of overburdened taxpayers.”
In a statement made in March 2014, Judicial Watch said, “The Obama family 2013-2014 vacation to Honolulu cost $210,877 per hour for travel alone; at 36.9 total hours, the cost to taxpayers for the vacation’s flight expense was $7,781,361.30,” noting an increase of $3,695,006.10 from flight expenses for the Obamas’ 2012-13 Hawaii Christmas vacation.
Judicial Watch also obtained the cost of the Obamas’ trip — June 27 to July 3 — to three countries in Africa — Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.
Transportation costs for flights to, from and around Africa was $228,288 an hour for 35.5 hours; the flight expense alone was $8,104,224, according to Air Force records.
The total for the Africa and Honolulu vacations cost taxpayers some $15,885,585.30 for flight expenses alone, Judicial Watch said.
Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Jan. 6, 2014, and received the documents on Dec. 28. The information was heavily redacted, but shows $91,751.78 in car rental expenses was paid while $224,974.05 in accommodation expenses was paid to Cabana Girl, LLC and Paradise Luxury Rentals.
“It seems our lawsuits finally got the attention of the Secret Service,” Fitton said. “It is easy to see why the Secret Service, reeling from its own scandals, covered up these outrageous expense numbers for just one of Obama’s luxury Christmas vacation.”
The known total expense to taxpayers thus far for all Obama travel is now $70.8 million, according to Judicial Watch.
White House rules for vacations, or unofficial travel, requires reimbursing the government the equivalent to the cost of what a first class commercial flight would have been.
However, such a reimbursement would amount to only a fraction of the total cost of most presidential travel because it does not include the cost of Secret Service protection and while a commercial airline ticket is significantly less than the cost of operating a military passenger jet.