Judicial Watch uses FOIA lawsuit to obtain cost of Michelle's "Family Trip" to Africa - daughters listed as "Senior Staff" to justify cost!
October 04, 2011
Charges for the Aircraft and Crew Alone Amount to $424,142
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to the June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by First Lady Michelle Obama, her
family and her staff to South Africa and Botswana. Judicial Watch
obtained the documents pursuant to an August 19, 2011, Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Air Force (No.
11-1496)). Judicial Watch is investigating the purpose and itinerary of
the trip as well as a breakdown of the costs to taxpayers.
On June 28, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request seeking
the mission taskings, transportation records, and passenger manifests
for Michelle Obama’s Africa trip. Documents were only provided after
Judicial Watch filed suit:
- According to U.S. Department of Defense’s published hourly rates for
the C-32A aircraft used for the trip, Judicial Watch calculated the
total cost to American taxpayers was $424,142 for use of the aircraft
(34.8 flight hours x $12,188 per hour). (The C-32 is a specially
configured military version of the Boeing 757.) Other expenses – meals
(off the plane), transportation, security, various services, etc. – have
yet to be disclosed.
- The passenger manifests confirm the presence of Obama’s daughter’s,
Malia and Sasha on the trip. The two girls are listed as “Senior Staff.”
The manifests also list Mrs. Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, and niece
and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson, as well Mrs. Obama’s makeup and
hairstylist (Carl Ray and Johnny Wright).
- The expense records also show $928.44 was spent for “bulk food”
purchases on flight. Overall, during the trip, 192 meals were served for
the 21 passengers on board.
The professed purpose of Michelle Obama’s trip to South Africa and
Botswana was to encourage young people living in the two growing
democracies to become involved in national affairs; and during her
scheduled stops in Pretoria and Cape Town, South Africa and in Gaborone,
the capital of Botswana, the First Lady used the opportunity to speak
on education, health and wellness issues.The trip also included such
tourist events as visits to historical landmarks and museums, plus a
nonworking chance to send time with Nelson Mandela, a meeting that Mrs.
Obama described as “surreal.” The trip ended with a private family
safari at a South African game reserve before the group returned to
Washington on June 27.“This trip was as much an opportunity for the
Obama family to go on a safari as it was a trip to conduct government
business,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This junket wasted
tax dollars and the resources of our overextended military. No wonder
we had to sue to pry loose this information.”
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