Not so nifty: Taxpayers chip in on gift for first lady, who turns 50

First lady Michelle Obama stayed behind in Hawaii to party with the likes of Oprah Winfrey for the first lady's 50th birthday.
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IT’S HER BIRTHDAY: First lady Michelle Obama stayed behind in Hawaii to party with the likes of Oprah Winfrey for the first lady’s 50th birthday.

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – KAILUA, Hawaii — President Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia left Oahu after 15-day holiday vacation in a beachfront luxury home in Kailua, Oahu.

They also left a pretty big bill.


The Obamas’ vacation cost taxpayers more than $4 million for travel, staffing, security, housing, car rentals and transportation of vehicles and a helicopter.

But the expenses continue.

First Lady Michelle Obama extended her own vacation, flying to the island of Maui, where she is spending time with family friend Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey’s magazine describes the home as a “perfect 21st-century farmhouse” in a “remote up-country region, where the houses that dot the moss-covered rock hillside face the ocean.”

The president said he sent his wife to Maui as an early birthday present; she turns 50 Jan. 17.

The Daily Caller reports Michelle Obama is also spending time with Gayle King of CBS News, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Sharon Malone, wife of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Taxpayers are chipping in on the gift.

AP file photo
FAMILY TRADITION: Since first winning the White House in 2008, the first family has vacationed in President Obama’s native Hawaii during the Christmas season.

White House Spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged in a news conference Monday that taxpayers are picking up some of the cost of Michelle Obama’s trip to Maui and her travel back to Washington D.C.

“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.

Carney explained, “But you’re accurate in your description that this was her decision to remain at actually the president’s suggestion in Hawaii to spend time with friends ahead of her upcoming very big birthday. And if you have kids, you know that telling your spouse that they can go spend a week away from home is actually a big present. Not that we don’t love our kids.”

The separate vacation entails the cost for Maui police department escorts, Secret Service travel, rental cars and accommodations, as well as transportation.

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.

Based on those figures, a 10-hour flight could cost anywhere from $197,550 to $429,180, Douglas Kellogg of the National Taxpayers Union & Foundation said.

The cost of police escorts for the first family have not yet been disclosed by either Oahu or Maui police officials.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (file photo)

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took her own Hawaiian vacation this month, 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.

Pelosi makes the trip here annually, and she covers her own hotel and flight costs on commercial airlines.

West Hawaii Today has reported Pelosi stays in the presidential suite at the posh Four Seasons Resort in Hualalai.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at





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