The government watchdog group Judicial Watch has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Air Force seeking to obtain details and costs of First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip to South Africa and Botswana June 21-27.
The request, announced today, was filed June 28, one day after White House Dossier published an examination of the trip that found it included a significant vacation component and probably cost taxpayers well over $500,000.
From the Judicial Watch announcement:
Judicial Watch is investigating the total cost of the trip to the taxpayers in the face of a ballooning federal debt and a sinking economy. As stated in an analysis by White House Dossier (the blog of White House reporter Keith Koffer, who writes for CongressDaily, National Journal, Roll Call and Politico), the cost to taxpayers for the C-32 was $430,000 alone. This cost is based on an estimated charge of $12,723 an hour, which is what the Department of Defense charges other federal agencies for use of the aircraft. If a military cargo plane was included – which typically accompanies a First Lady – the cost of transportation could have escalated by another $200,000.
Other costs, such as Secret Service protection, the care and feeding of staff, and pre-trip advance work done by administration officials in Africa, cannot be determined without examining records.
While the stated goal of the trip was “youth leadership, education, health and wellness” in southern Africa, the excursion included tourist stops to historical landmarks and museums, a chance for Mrs. Obama to meet privately with Nelson Mandela – an experience she described as “surreal” – and a private safari.
The first lady brought along her mother, her daughters and two of their cousins – the children of her brother Craig Robinson.
“A visit to South Africa is important for them as a family,” said a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in South Africa prior to the trip.