Watchdog: U.S. Taxpayers Shelled Out $85M for Obama Family’s Vacations

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President Barack Obama visits Hawaii in 2012

According to a Judicial Watch report, the Obama family’s paid vacations and travel expenses cost U.S. taxpayers $85 million over the last eight years. The report also shows the price tag of the first family’s latest annual trip to Hawaii was $3.5 million. Hawaii is President Obama’s home state and favorite vacation destination.

Judicial Watch experts said the figures could further climb as not all federal records were released. The non-profit has been pushing for less personal travel for U.S. presidents for years. The group argues that Air Force One’s operating costs along with the expenses for armored cars, Secret Service, medical and communications staffers can sometime be astronomical.

Obama’s “Unnecessary” Personal Travel Expenses

The nonprofit’s president Tom Fitton included in “unnecessary” personal travel trips to luxury locations, family gatherings, and fundraising events. Fitton hopes the new administration would be less wasteful of taxpayer money than the Obamas.

President-elect Donald Trump spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family at the Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Shortly after he was elected, he spent two days at the NJ-based Bedminster golf club, which critics claim it may turn into his Camp David.

Obama critics claim previous presidents were more thoughtful of tax dollars when they went on vacations. For instance, George W. Bush spent most of his vacations at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where several of his staffers were accommodated in trailers. Obama’s top destinations – Martha’s Vineyard and Hawaii – generated more expenses.

When Trump landed in Palm Beach on Thanksgiving, local authorities had to fork out $250,000 for the security of the presidential candidate. According to a report, Congress recently reimbursed $7 million to law enforcement officers for overtime costs implied by Trump’s security until his Inauguration.

Obama administration often defended the president’s annual trip to Hawaii, where he spent his childhood. Nevertheless, the current president spent less time vacationing than George W. Bush.

Obama’s Vacation Time vs other Presidents’

Obama’s combined vacation time amounts to 217 days over eight years. This number does not include the 2016 Hawaii trip. By contrast, his Republican predecessor’s 77 trips to his Texas ranch spanned over 490 days.

One expert said it is only natural for U.S. presidents to take time to refresh and relax. In addition, criticism aimed at presidential vacations may be as old as John Adams’ presidency. Adams’ irked critics of his time with his frequent trips from Washington to his family home in Massachusetts.

Other experts argue U.S. presidents are never on vacation as some events may disrupt or even change their vacation plans. President Dwight Eisenhower, for instance, had to return from his vacation in Newport, Rhode Island, to deploy federal troops to Arkansas in the wake of the Little Rock Nine incident. President George W. Bush, however, refused to end a month-long vacation when Hurricane Katrina deluged New Orleans in 2005.

Judicial Watch also found Secret Service members dispatched to protect the Obamas in their 2015 trip to Hawaii cost taxpayers $1.2 million. The total cost of the vacation was $4.8 million. Of these costs, $1 million went to Secret Service lodging, $166,000 to car rentals, and nearly $70,000 to travel costs. In 2015, a separate report showed the presidential plane costs $180,110 per hour to operate.
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