BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – President Barack Obama and his family are attracting international attention once again for their pricey vacation in Martha’s Vineyard at a time when most Americans are suffering in a down economy.
The London Daily Mail, one of the top news sources in Europe, was following up on criticisms that Obama’s extravagant vacations in places like Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard are costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
“The Obamas’ summer break on Martha’s Vineyard has already been branded a PR disaster after the couple arrived four hours apart on separate government jets. But according to new reports, this is the least of their extravagances. ..
“White House sources today claimed that the First Lady has spent $10 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money on vacations alone in the past year,” the paper reports.
Boston Herald reports that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney also attacked Obama’s vacation plans today at a forum. ““You got 20 million people out of work right now, Mr. President — out of work, with part-time work or they stopped looking for work. You shouldn’t be on the Vineyard playing golf, you should be doing your job getting Americans back to work,” Romney said.
Hawaii Reporter was cited in the international news report for investigation into the cost to taxpayers for President Barack Obama’s 2010 Hawaii Christmas vacation, which extended into January 2011.
Some of the cost estimates for the Hawaii trip included:
- Obama’s round trip flight to Hawaii via Air Force One: $1 million (GAO estimates)
- Mrs. Obama’s early flight to Hawaii: $63,000 (White House Dossier)
- Housing in beachfront homes for Secret Service and Seals in Kailua ($1,200 a day for 14 days): $16,800
- Costs for White House staff staying at Moana Hotel: $134,400 ($400 per day for 24 staff) – excluding meals and other room costs
- Local police overtime: $250,000 (2009 costs reported by Honolulu Police Department)
- Ambulance: $10,000 (City Spokesperson)
- TOTAL COST: $1,474,200
- Rental of office building in Kailua on canal
- Security upgrades and additional phone lines to private homes where Obama and friends are staying
- Costs for car rentals and fuel for White House staff staying at Moana Hotel
- Surveillance before the President arrives
- Travel costs for Secret Service and White House staff traveling ahead of the President
In addition, costs should have been added for the Hawaii trip for USAF C-17 cargo aircraft that transported the Presidential limos, helicopters and other support equipment. The flight time between Andrews Air Force Base and Hawaii is at about 20 hours roundtrip, with estimated operating cost of $7,000 per hour (GAO report) for a total of $140,000 per roundtrip. Sources say the United States Marine Corps provides a presidential helicopter, along with pilots and support crews for the test flights, which travel on another C-17 flight at $140,000 for a total of $280,000.
Hawaii Reporter requested details on the cost of the President’s trip, but the White House would not release any figures, citing security concerns. A spokesperson maintains the costs are in line with other presidential vacations.
Hawaii Reporter also sought to determine the taxpayer cost of all Hawaii vacations but never received any reply from four emails sent earlier this year to the U.S. General Services Administration, the agency that tracks these costs.
The London Daily Mail documents costs for other pricey vacations in addition to those in Martha’s Vineyard and Hawaii.
“The First Lady is believed to have taken 42 days of holiday in the past year, including a $375,000 break in Spain and a four-day ski trip to Vail, Colorado, where she spent $2,000 a night on a suite at the Sebastian hotel.
“And the first family’s nine-day stay in Martha’s Vineyard is also proving costly, with rental of the Blue Heron Farm property alone costing an estimated $50,000 a week.”
According to U.S. News and World Report, the Coast Guard has its ships around the property, and the staffing for the presidential helicopter and jet are always prepared for immediate orders.
The same was true for his vacation in Hawaii.