BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – HONOLULU – President Barack Obama and his family just spent their Christmas and New Year’s holidays in Kailua. Now it’s time for taxpayers to pick up the tab.
While the Obamas and friends who accompany them pay for their own private vacation home rentals on or near Kailua Beach, taxpayers foot a multimillion dollar tab for everything from a stand-by ambulance to the fuel for Air Force One.
Local taxpayers pick up the bill for Honolulu Police Department escorts who guard Obama, first lady Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha around the clock. Figures just released by HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu show HPD spent $277,000 on overtime costs this year during the president’s 16-day vacation. That’s $16,000 less than in 2013, but $60,000 more than in 2012.
The Emergency Management Services department also dispatches an ambulance to be on call for the president, which annually costs the city about $15,890.
The U.S. Secret Service doesn’t disclose information about the expense for its agents to travel to and stay in Hawaii or guard the first family.
Dozens of Secret Service agents were spotted at Ala Moana Hotel checking in the day before Obama arrived. A spokeswoman for the hotel said she couldn’t release details on the number of agents who stayed there, but hotel staff told Watchdog the government rate would be about $200 a night, including taxes.
Secret Service agents, Navy SEALs and Coast Guard officials also rent private homes along the canal near the president in Kailua at a cost of $250 per room per night, according to several residents renting their homes.
The most pricey charge to taxpayers is the flight to Oahu from Washington, D.C.
Records obtained by Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Watch said “the flights to and from Honolulu for the December 2013-January 2014 Christmas vacation totaled 36.9 hours at $210,877 an hour, which comes to a flight expense alone of $7,781,361.30.”
That was an increase of $3.7 million in flight expenses Judicial Watch reported the Obamas incurred for their 2012 Honolulu Christmas vacation.
No estimates for 2014’s travel have been released by the administration.
The cost for USAF C-17 cargo aircraft that transports presidential limos, helicopters and other support equipment to Hawaii has never been disclosed, but the round-trip flight time between Andrews Air Force Base and Hawaii is 21.5 hours, with estimated operating cost of $12,000 per hour, according to an U.S. Government Accountability Office report.
The U.S. Marine Corps provides a presidential helicopter, along with pilots and support crews for the test flights, which travel on another C-17 flight. That totals $258,000, not including costs for the four-to-six-member crew’s per diem and hotel.
The Obamas rented the same five-bedroom oceanfront villa on Kailuana Place they’ve secured for the past four years. Sūmit Capital LLC, a New York investment firm headed by Soumyo Sarkar and his wife Chinyu Sarkar, owns the multimillion-dollar property.
Security upgrades are made to the home, with bulletproof glass, additional phone lines and other detection and defense systems installed.
Since the home sits on the popular Kailua Beach, the U.S. Coast Guard stations a sea vessel nearby, while its officials use personal watercraft and smaller boats to patrol the ocean and canal surrounding the home.
The administration also rents cars for staff and security, and pays additional travel costs for Secret Service and White House staff traveling ahead of the president.
None of those costs have ever been released to the public.