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





  1. Maybe they will swing by the Zippy's for some grinds, just don't tell her where the really good local foods are or she will never leave Maui!

  2. The president and first lady have no concept what struggles those that are trying to live day to day face. They do not care about anyone but themselves. I am starting to get really irritated that I am funding their vacations and I can't afford to take one myself.

  3. Two questions:
    1.) Is Oprah's 'house/home/land' zoned agricultural to avoid paying the 'normal' property tax of a residential property?
    2.) How many times did the Obamas visit Hawaii after he left to go college after Punahou on their OWN dime? I doubt a single time…..but hey, I too would love it to travel when someone else pays; I just wouldn't in this economy when so very many people are hurting…..AUWE!

    • The president said he sent his wife to Maui as an early birthday present…"
      So she's still in Maui away from B.O. the Punahou punk?
      Anyone wonder how's this marriage going if she WANTS to be away from him for her birthday?
      HMMM……think of the clintons.

  4. Malia … get real. Do you believe that the President of the United States shouldn't take any vacation? If he does shouldn't he and his family be protected by the Secret Service? Any sane person would answer "Yes" to those questions and understand that it would cost something to protect the Obamas from assassination or kidnapping. Do you really think it would be sound policy to ignore those threats and require them to fly on a commercial airline all alone or hunker down in their vacation house without guards?

    • Are you stupid or something? The thing is why don't they go to Chicago WHERE THEY ARE FROM instead of traipsing all the way to Hawaii? Chicago is a hell of a lot closer and CHEAPER.

    • No, no vacations in Hawaii or anywhere away from DC for this President.

      For this President, every day is a vacation.

      Mr. President never works.

      Check out the White House website for President Obama's daily schedule;
      day after day he only has a 30 minute mid-morning briefing and then, if anything else is scheduled, it's a campaign event.

    • Yes, Obama is entitled to take a yearly vacation. Yes, he and his family should be protected by the Secret Service. Yes, they should be able to choose not to fly commercial. Yes, they should be able to hunker down in their vacation house with guards. NO, it shouldn't be on the taxpayers' dime. NONE of the costs of his vacation, including Secret Service, private plane, guards, etc., should be borne by the taxpayers. ALL OF THE COSTS of his vacation should be entirely paid for by the Obamas. My employer doesn't pay for the cost of my vacation, so we taxpayers as Obama's employer, should NOT have to pay for his. I'll bet that if he had to pay for his own vacation, he would think twice about the total cost and would go find someplace else that was cheaper.

  5. Not only is my family not able to afford a vacation, but our Internist recently informed us that their practice by economic necessity is closing down and restarting under an increased fee and less patients. To stay with them we are putting the increased cost on our credit card. This Doctor has a heart for his patients but Obama Care has forced him to change his business model to even feed his own family and care for his patients. The economic avalanche that is just starting from Obama Care has hit my family. President Obama’s Robinhood plan (redistribute money’s from the well off towards the poor) is hurting the middle class while he and his family is on a luxury tax payer paid vacation. I don’t think the President is even being a good Robinhood.

  6. Only in O's America can the first lady party on the taxpayers dime in Hawaii, while her hubby comes on TV to talk about how life isn't fair

  7. Camp David is the presidential vacation retreat. It's staffed by U.S. Navy and U.S.Marine Corps personnel. If the president or anyone in his family doesn't want to vacation in the place the taxpayers are already paying for, then they should go to the destination of their choice on their own dime.


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