Patrick Gleason and Nicole L. Cvetnic McClatchy
BY ANITA KUMAR,
WASHINGTON As America’s first family enjoys its eighth and final vacation in Hawaii, new estimates put the price tag of the Obamas’ annual trip at $3.5 million or more.
In total, the cost of the the first family’s personal or largely personal travel during the last eight years comes to $85 million – though that is likely to climb to $90 million after additional records are released, according to the conservative group Judicial Watch based on federal government records.
The cost of Air Force One and other government planes as well as helicopters, cargo planes, armored cars, Secret Service protection and advance, communications and medical staff has led Judicial Watch to push for less personal travel.
“The Secret Service and the Air Force are being abused by unnecessary travel,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said. “Unnecessary presidential travel for fundraising and luxury vacations on the taxpayers’ dime would be a good target for reform for the incoming Trump administration.”
President-elect Donald Trump prefers to vacation at his own properties. He is spending Christmas at Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where he stayed for Thanksgiving. After the election, he spent a weekend at Bedminster golf club in New Jersey, which has fueled speculation that it could be Trump’s Camp David.
Critics of Obama’s annual vacations to Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard say President George W. Bush – and perhaps Trump – likely saved money because their vacation homes, including Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, were modified one time – some at a cost to taxpayers – and accommodated some of the traveling entourage. At Bush’s ranch, some slept in trailers.
Published reports say the Trumps’ Thanksgiving trip to Florida wound up costing $7 million. Congress recently appropriated $7 million to reimburse state and local law enforcement agencies for overtime costs associated with protecting Trump before his inauguration. Palm Beach County says the county spent $250,000 for security support for Trump during his four-day visit over Thanksgiving.
The White House defended Obama’s trip to Hawaii, which is where the president was born and spent much of his childhood.
“Despite the security apparatus that accompanies any president when traveling, the administration works with the United States Secret Service to minimize the disruptions to local residents and businesses,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. “Honolulu is a place where the president can enjoy some downtime with his family and friends and he’s grateful for the warm hospitality he enjoys when there.”
Obama has taken less vacation time than his Republican predecessor.
He’s taken 28 vacations spanning all or part of 217 days, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS News White House correspondent who maintains an authoritative record of presidential activities. Those numbers do not include the latest Hawaii trip, which began Friday and is expected to end Jan. 2….