Nearly 90 percent of President Obama’s domestic travel in the first six months of this year has been either partially or entirely political, and almost all the costs are borne by taxpayers, according to a White House Dossier Analysis.
Since returning from vacation in Hawaii Jan. 4, Obama has embarked on 25 domestic trips involving use of Air Force One. Of the total, 22 have involved either a fundraiser, travel to a presidential battleground state, or both.
Only three times has the president traveled for purely non-political purposes: a trip to visit flooding victims in Tennessee; a visit to New York City to meet with 9/11 families and lay a wreath; and a trip to Albany, New York to speak about the economy.
Obama has traveled to 2012 campaign battleground states 16 times, hitting key states like Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Michgan and Wisconsin and landing multiple times in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, electoral vote-rich states he needs to win.
Of the 11 excursions Obama has made that included a fundraiser, nine have also featured an “official” event, which helps the Obama campaign stick more of the bill to taxpayers. While it is impossible to prove that the official events were solely created to defray campaign travel costs, it is widely assumed that this White House and those that preceded it map official travel at least in part to mitigate the cost of jetting around the country to raise money and campaign.
The most egregious of these kinds of voyages appears to have occurred on April 27, when Obama and the first lady jetted to Chicago to tape the Oprah Winfrey show, and then the president flew on to New York for fundraisers. Mrs. Obama flew directly back to Washington, creating an expense for taxpayers instead of for Mrs. Winfrey, who presumably could have flown to the White House to tape the interview.
Six of Obama’s trips included both a fundraiser and a stop in a political battleground state.
These practices are not unique to Obama. George W. Bush also scheduled heavy travel for political purposes at taxpayer expense in the first half of 2003, as he prepared to run for reelection.
But Bush traveled a handful of times less frequently than Obama and only held four fundraisers outside Washington. He also made more purely non-political journeys than Obama, including trips to then-relatively safe GOP states like Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia and flight to Illinois, a state he could not have hoped to win.