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Tag Archives: South Africa

Michelle’s South Africa Flights Cost $424,142

The government watchdog group Judicial Watch has obtained government records showing that First Lady Michelle Obama’s flights to, from, and around southern Africa in June cost $424,142, plus another $928.44 for in-flight meals.

But the actual costs of the trip are much higher, given that the sum obtained by Judicial Watch does not include items such as ground transportation, security and lodging.

A White House Dossier article on June 27 that led to the Judicial Watch investigation found that the actual cost was possibly in the range of $700,000-$800,000. I’m happy to note that my own estimate then – before Judicial Watch obtained the flight manifests on which it based the $424,142 figure, was right on target, as I wrote that the cost of the flights was “about $430,000.”

While Mrs. Obama held many official events during the trip, the voyage also was part tourism, including visits to various landmarks, a nonworking meeting with Nelson Mandeal that she said was “surreal,” and a safari.

Mrs. Obama also brought along her mother, her two daughters, and their cousins – the two children of Michelle’s brother, Craig Robinson.

“A visit to South Africa is important for them as a family,” said a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman at the time.

Lawsuit Seeks Costs of Michelle’s South Africa Trip

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 CongressDailyNational JournalRoll 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.

Michelle to Travel to Southern Africa

Well, it’s kind of an expensive trip to take while President Obama and Congress are engaged in a desperate struggle to slash spending, isn’t it? But the White House is making clear that, unlike her vacation to Spain last year, which cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, this is an official trip. It is the kind of thing all first ladies do to promote the United States and its interests overseas.

Now, does that mean she – and her mom, and her daughters – ain’t going to get in some sight seeing or sample some roast antelope at a swank Johannesburg eatery? I’m sure they will.

But as long as she spends plenty of time working, this is normal first lady stuff. The schedule suggests they’ll be bouncing around too much to get too comfortable. From the White House:

First Lady Michelle Obama announced that she will travel to Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa and Gaborone, Botswana during an official visit to Africa from June 21 – 26 focused on youth leadership, education, health and wellness. The trip is a continuation of Mrs. Obama’s work to engage young people at home and abroad, from mentoring students in the United States and encouraging them to gain international experience, to encouraging young people to excel academically, serve, and lead . . . Accompanying Mrs. Obama on this trip will be her mother, Mrs. Robinson and her daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama.

In addition to advancing her international youth engagement agenda, the First Lady’s events will amplify the President’s support for democracy, development and economic opportunity across Africa. During her trip, Mrs. Obama will deliver the keynote address to a U.S.-sponsored Young African Women Leaders Forum in South Africa. Forum participants include young women from across sub-Saharan Africa who are leading or involved in social and economic initiatives in their own countries.