Taxpayers fund at least $350K in security costs for Obama Hawaiian vacations
HAPPY HOLIDAYS: President Barack Obama likes to spend the Christmas holidays in Hawaii, where first lady Michelle Obama stayed behind to party with the likes of Oprah Winfrey for the first lady’s 50th birthday. AP photo
by Malia Zimmerman, Watchdog.org, January 24, 2014
KAILUA, Hawaii — During her recent visit to Maui and the home of close family friend Oprah Winfrey, First Lady Michelle Obama was escorted by Maui police.
The tab for that protection? $54,233.70, said a spokesman for the Maui Police Department.
That’s a drop in the bucket, though.
Honolulu police protected the first family while they spent some 15 days during the holidays in Kailua, Oahu.
Michelle Yu, spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department, said Thursday the department spent $293,731.99 for overtime only, an expense that excludes normal salary pay.
Neither county police department will seek federal reimbursement for those expenses, putting the burden on local taxpayers.
In 2008, when the Obamas first visited Oahu during the holidays, the City and County of Honolulu sought reimbursement, but were never repaid. Now the county budgets for the president’s annual holiday visit.
The Obama Hawaiian vacation costs more than $4 million total for travel, staffing, security, housing, car rentals and transportation of vehicles and a helicopter.
Michelle Obama’s extended vacation on the island of Maui, which the president said was an early birthday present for her, also entailed the cost for Secret Service travel, rental cars and accommodations, as well as transportation.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged in a news conference just after the First Lady flew to Maui that taxpayers are picking up some of the cost of her trip and travel back to Washington D.C., but would not disclose the details.
“As with all personal travel, the first family will appropriately fund personal expenses … And in line with travel of past presidents and first ladies, the First Lady will travel via government aircraft,” Carney said in response to a question from Fox News.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the First Lady typically flies in either a C-40 or a C-32 aircraft.
Operational cost per flight hour ranges from $19,755 on the C-40B to $42,918 on the C-32A, so a 10-hour flight could cost anywhere from $197,550 to $429,180.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took her own Hawaiian vacation in December, which overlapped the president’s by one day.
Pelosi stayed on Hawaii Island for nine days in December, costing local taxpayers $22,873 for police security details. The Hawaii Island police will not seek reimbursement.
Pelosi makes the trip here annually, and she covers her own hotel and flight costs on commercial airlines.